By Kerry A. Costello
Special to the Gazette
The Board of the Jamaica Plain Community Centers invites our neighbors to a birthday party at Curtis Hall on Nov. 17. We are celebrating a sesquicentennial, which translates into 150 years of public service in the heart of Jamaica Plain.
What many residents may not realize is that Curtis Hall was originally built as the Town of West Roxbury’s Town Hall. The land was donated in 1868 by Nelson Curtis, who was a selectman in the town. The original building housed a library and meeting room on the first floor. The second floor could accommodate 1,200 people and housed a stage. The venue had quite the reputation as the site of dances every weekend. The third floor included a kitchen and large meeting rooms. It became City property when West Roxbury joined the City of Boston. The building was renovated following a fire in 1908.
The pool was added and became the focal point of the neighborhood. Many residents fondly recall learning to swim in the basement of Curtis Hall. The gym and track also became the center of recreation for the neighborhood as it does today. Residents came to Curtis Hall for medical care offered through the City and to take hot showers in the marble stalls in the days of cold water flats.
As the City of Boston has evolved, so too, has the use and function of Curtis Hall, which once was designated a Little Town Hall. It is now a part of BCYF, which itself evolved from a community center. The premise of that concept was that school houses and municipal buildings belonged to the citizens and needed to be accessible for identified community needs. Citizen-lead councils were developed in partnership with the City. These nonprofits comprised of citizen volunteers oversee the work of community centers in partnership with the City.
As the chairperson of the Jamaica Plain Community Centers, I am proud of the work we do to respond to the needs of our neighbors in JP. We offer Education, Recreation and Information Across the Generations. Come celebrate with us on Nov. 17 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. All activities are free and open to the public. The mayor will be joining us as we dedicate the Senior Center to our late, beloved Senior Coordinator Olga Dumont. We ask that you bring a gift to celebrate our birthday of non-perishable food items or toiletries. Our oversized inflatable Tom Turkey will accept all gifts.
Curtis Hall is truly the “Heart of JP”. Let’s keep the beat going for decades to come.
Kerry A. Costello is the chairperson of the Jamaica Plain Community Centers, which runs Curtis Hall.