By Beth Treffeisen
A new banner will soon wrap around the crumbling, ivory covered tower at the First Baptist Church located at 110 Commonwealth Ave. in the Back Bay. The deteriorating tower has created an unsafe situation for people walking below where at any moment another piece may fly off and potentially hit them.
In an effort to raise money to fund the emergency repairs and later a restoration to the façade, the Church received permission to place a scrim, with scaffolding behind it, along the top portion of the tower with logos of future sponsors from the Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) hearing this past Wednesday, March 8.
“We’re just trying to satisfy the request that things aren’t falling off the tower,” said Earl Norman representing the First Baptist Church. “In order to do that we are erecting this staging tower.”
The sign banding will be reviewed by BBAC staff once the sponsors are decided on and after 24 months of the scrim being up, the Church will need to return to get an extension if needed.
Norman said that the small congregation of about 30 people who attend the First Baptist Church alone could not fund the entire restoration of the tower.
By having sponsors in a high visibility spot, Norman said, he hopes that they will be able to get the funding to do the full restorations swiftly.
Greg Galer from the Boston Preservation Alliance said, “We have long be concerned about this building and it’s unfortunate that this is what it takes to bring our attention to it and we look forward to it’s restoration.”
Towards the summit of the tower are monumental friezes that were designed in 1872 by Federic Auguste Bartholdi. He is best known for his work on the Statue of Liberty. The tower, as well as the main church, is the first Romanesque church by architect H.H. Richardson who later designed the nearby Trinity Church.
According to the First Baptist Church website, featured on the friezes are images of notable personages of the 1800’s. Those include, Abraham Lincoln, Henry W. Longfellow, Guiseppe Garibaldi, Bartholdi, Ralph W. Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and John LaFarge.
The design of the band will mimic the artwork behind it. The Commission asked that it looses the transparency and have a solid band with the artwork and sponsors logos.
“It’s going to be a work in progress,” said Norman. “We still need to get a legitimate graphic artist intertwined. We are looking for a conformation on the concept.”
Norman believes that the full restoration will take between two to three years to complete.
Members of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay voiced concern over how long the scrim will be up for.
Norman said that they have already moved to have people look at the damage to prevent more stone from falling off.
“Things may continue to fall off but they will be protected by this scrim,” said Norman. “This is all routine restoration and its length, its service life, begrudgingly will last until we get the money.”
Members of the public can contribute a donation at: www.firstbaptistchurchofboston.com/donate