50th Anniversary Activities for Paul Rudolph's First Church in Boston



First Church Boston

66 Marlborough Street
Boston, MA
Image details

Dedicated in 1972, plans are underway to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Paul Rudolph’s design for the First Church in Boston.  

In 1967, a fire destroyed most of the original 1867 gothic revival church by William Ware and Henry Van Brunt. The congregation considered proposals from Marcel Breuer, Joseph Schiffer, Joseph Eldridge, and Paul Rudolph. They voted in favor of Rudolph’s design, which incorporated “the remains of the local ‘puddingstone’ tower, steeple and facade of the original 1868 building to serve as the East walls of the new building. The charred wood frame of the original rose window opening is left to serve as a reminder of the 1968 fire.” (Paul Ruolph Institute for Modern Architecture)

Rudolph’s work “successfully married the remaining elements of the original building with his lower vertically ribbed ‘corduroy’ concrete structure and added a small external amphitheater and a preschool to the sanctuary.” (SAH Archipedia) The Boston Preservation Alliance describes it as “a concrete work of art hidden amongst the brownstones.” 

The congregation merged with the Second Church after the fire, and today it is a Unitarian Universalist church. Over the years, the congregation has painstakingly maintained the unique character of its space, including reproducing the original red and purple textiles and other furnishings.

This Saturday April 30 and Sunday May 1 the congregation invites the public to join them in celebrating their “boldly modern, rebuilt church structure,” with a weekend of free events. Activities include the Festival Concert on April 30 at 7 pm, an Architectural Panel on Sunday from 2- 4 pm that will bring together esteemed architects and architectural historians to talk about Paul Rudolph and the First Church design, and guided tours of the church throughout the weekend.

All events are free and open to the public. No reservations are needed. All events take place at First Church located at 66 Marlborough Street, at Berkeley Street, in Boston’s Back Bay. For safety’s sake, masks are required when inside the church.

first church boston 50th anniversary