Unitarian Universalist First Church braces historic tower

Church raising funds for major repairs

The historic Unitarian Universalist First Church in Monument Square in Jamaica Plain recently installed wooden braces on the church’s tower wall that faces Eliot Street. During a recent assessment of the church’s exterior, engineers discovered a bulge in the church tower wall. The assessment commissioned by the Church found this defect in the tower is breaking loose from the Church’s interior stone.  

The braces that were recently installed aim to stabilize the tower wall until repairs can be made. 

In mid-March 2021, the Church’s Standing Committee and Trust submitted two applications for grants to support the building repair work. 

The Standing Committee hopes to attain a Massachusetts Preservation Project Fund grant in the amount of $80,000. The Committee  will not know the status of this funding until June 9, 2021. The Committee also applied for a $250,000 matching grant from the Fund for Sacred Places: This is a pre-screening submission for an competitive national program. The decision whether the Church can submit a full application for the grant is due in early June 2021.

In November and December 2020, the architectural firm of Spencer, Sullivan & Vogt conducted a careful examination of the outside walls, roofs, doors, and windows of the 170 year old Church. This was done to assess repair needs and develop a master plan for restoring the church building. 

The resulting report was critical to planning for and maintaining the integrity of the historic building to protect our historic structure and the valuable improvements in which we have recently invested.

“Our historic church tower is part of Jamaica Plain’s life, with our church bell ringing on the hour from 7am until 9pm every day, as well as for important events,” said Persis Yu, the Co-Chair of the Church’s Standing Committee. “Almost 170 years old, the historic building really needs the care and attention of proper repair and restoration that it deserves.”

The First Church has been part of the Jamaica Plain community since 1853 and has weathered the rigors of New England’s climate. The report makes clear that Church officials need to make important decisions about the stewardship of the neighborhood’s historic building. 

The Standing Committee added that raising funds is crucial because the features of the building that parishioners have come to love – the sanctuary, the historically significant organ, and the acoustic marvel the parish hall – will not survive if officials do not attend to the basic needs of keeping water out of the building. 

Individuals can donate to the Church by visiting https://www.firstchurchjp.org/donate. 

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