Spencer, Sullivan & Vogt / 1 Thompson Square / Charlestown MA 02129 / T 617.861.4291 / © 2018 by Spencer, Sullivan & Vogt Architects

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Ohabei Shalom Community Center  East Boston, MA

The Ohabei Shalom Cemetery was established in 1844 as the first Jewish burial ground in Massachusetts. This historically symbolic garden cemetery and its associated chapel, listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places, embody the story of the Mystic River Jews who fled mid-19th century Europe to start new lives in Boston.

The Gothic Revival mortuary chapel, erected in 1903, is built of Roxbury pudding stone and has an open vaulted interior with impressive wood trusses, a tongue and groove wood ceiling, original pews and liturgical fittings, bead board wainscot and leaded glass windows. Abandoned in the early 1990s, the chapel was in poor condition when the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts Charitable Foundation acquired the cemetery. The JCAM trustees gave serious consideration to demolition, but chose instead to rehabilitate the chapel to provide an interactive exhibit chronicling the immigration history of greater Boston and flexible space for a variety of community programs. Our firm prepared a master plan to guide the chapel’s preservation and rehabilitation.

Significant progress has been made in the restoration of the chapel through a combination of active fund raising and two grants from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund. Work completed under our direction includes structural reinforcement, masonry restoration, slate roof repairs, replacement of gutters and downspouts, window lintel replacement, and replacement of the double entry door. Future work includes completion of the envelope restoration and finally, rehabilitation of the chapel interior, with the goal of returning the building to use as a beautiful setting for education and community functions.