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first baptist church, jamaica plain, ma

On the evening of January 28, 2005, most of the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain burned to the ground. As floodlights shined through the sub-zero darkness, illuminating the roofless shell of the pre-Civil War building that was home to the congregation for more than 165 years, the remains were completely coated in ice. Fortunately, the bell tower and portions of the original heavy masonry exterior walls of the building survived largely untouched by the fire.

The congregation moved quickly to shed their image as “the church that burned” to become the “church that rebuilt”. OMR collaborated with the congregation to develop a carefully phased reconstruction that realizes the congregation’s goals and mission in the context of their fund-raising campaign.

The congregation today is smaller than it was at the time the original church was built, and community outreach is a key mission for the church. As a result, the area rebuilt occupies approximately the same square footage and volume, but the new finished spaces are reconfigured to be more oriented to social, educational and community programs.

Phase 1 entailed a complete reconstruction and restoration of the exterior with new finishes for the lower level or about 50% of the interior space to provide economical, highly flexible spaces that can support the congregation’s educational, social, and worship programs.

The main floor, accessible at ground level, includes a social hall that also serves as a temporary sanctuary until the main sanctuary on the floor above is completed at a future date. This level also accommodates several classrooms, administrative offices, and a kitchen. The upper level exists as shell space in Phase 1 and will be finished off in subsequent phases as permitted by fundraising. These future spaces are identified as the main sanctuary, baptistery, library and a large meeting room.

The reconstructed main building integrates seamlessly with the surviving bell tower to form a new, transformed church that is now a home to a revitalized congregation and a center for many community programs.