nonetheless a place where free blacks and
working-class whites socialized. They even
worshiped together, though blacks did not
have a vote in church and sat in segregated
seating. It was perhaps the need for a place
and voice of their own that led a building
committee in 1805 to purchase a 49-foot-
by-59-foot lot on a short passageway (now
Smith Court) o; Belknap Street (now Joy
Street) where soon would rise, according
to an exhaustive historic structure report
published for Boston’s Museum of African
American History by John G. Waite Asso-
ciates, Architects, in 2004, “the first struc-
ture in North America built largely by and
entirely for the cultural needs of a burgeon-
ing early African-American community.”
Initially called the First African Bap-
tist Church in Boston, the brick building
may have been inspired by Asher Benja-
min’s The American Builder’s Compan-
ion, a popular pattern book published in
1806. Simple yet elegant, the building
cost $7,691, with $365 going toward the
purchase of material, including the wood
pulpit, salvaged from Boston’s old West
Church, which was being rebuilt at the
time. Moneys were raised in both the white
and black communities, and Cato Gardner,
a native of Africa, is commemorated with
a plaque on the building for single-hand-
edly contributing $1,500. While black
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; ;;;;;; ;; the First African Baptist Church on
Boston’s Beacon Hill shows the simple yet
elegant architecture, which may have been
inspired by Asher Benjamin’s The American
Builder’s Companion, a popular book of
building patterns published in 1806. ;;;;;;
;;;;: The exterior of the building as it appeared
in 1937 ;;;;;; and as it looks today.
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