Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2015 Preservation Award Winners
All Saints Church, Boston (Dorchester)

All Saints Church • Boston (Dorchester)

Rehabilitation & Restoration

All Saints Church, located in the Ashmont section of Boston's Dorchester neighborhood and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is a nationally significant work by prominent American architect Ralph Adams Cram. Relatively unknown when he designed the church in 1892, Cram went on to publish his influential book, Church Building, in 1906, using All Saints to illustrate his architectural philosophy. Through his writing and design work, Cram altered the course of religious architecture in the United States, and All Saints Church served as the prototype for Late Gothic Revival-style ecclesiastic architecture nationally. Over the course of 40 years, Cram continued to embellish the church with additions, furnishings, and art by several significant artists including wood carving by Johannes Kirchmayer and stained glass by Charles J. Connick.

While the Parish of All Saints has been a careful steward of its properties, by the early 21st century, much of its original fabric required major repair. In 2013, the parish launched an extensive campaign, based on an exhaustive Historic Structure Report, to restore the church and adjacent parish house, to update building systems and improve accessibility, and to preserve the buildings for future generations. On the church, slate and copper roofs, flashing, and gutters were replaced in-kind, while the slate roof and copper work of the parish house were repaired. Extensive masonry work included the replacement of 35 tons of mortar in more than 46,000 linear feet of masonry joints. The team renewed or restored all stained glass, leaded glass, and other windows in both buildings according to original specifications. The church's wooden window tracery, which suffered from hidden rot, was repaired and restored. Extensive preservation of all interior finishes included repair and repainting of plaster walls; gentle cleaning of all woodwork, paneling, and pews; and refinishing of wood floors. The team carefully stripped layers of paint from interior stone arches, while conducting historic paint analysis to restore the color palette that existed at the time of Cram's last addition in 1929. Lighting in the nave was restored to Cram's 1923 design, based on historic photographs and a surviving drawing. The parish rescued a 1929 E. M. Skinner pipe organ, Opus 708, from a closed church in western Massachusetts. Although the church kept its nave gallery organ, they installed the restored Skinner organ in a chamber above the chancel. Additionally, the parish created a new, two-million-dollar permanent endowment to support ongoing preservation work, and entered into a preservation restriction agreement with Historic New England to protect and preserve All Saints for future generations. As part of the restoration, the parish performed extensive outreach to educate the community about the property and the value of historic preservation, including hosting events for Preservation Month and organizing lectures and tours to celebrate Cram's 150th birthday in 2013. The project received 2015 preservation awards from Preservation Massachusetts, the Boston Preservation Alliance, and Engineering News-Record. The comprehensive rehabilitation of All Saints Church will ensure that this prominent building continues to serve its community for years to come.

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