There was a version of America that would’ve greeted the news of a 19th-century church being hollowed out for luxury condos with a lot of sweaty panic over moral decay. That America has moved along, and we are better for it.
Such is the subdued reaction to news that the Boston archdiocese is selling Holy Trinity Church to New Boston Development for $7 million. The church was erected in 1877 to serve the growing population of Catholic German immigrants. As the flock diminished, the great church couldn’t keep up with repairs, and it closed a decade ago. After a $47 million renovation it’ll contain 33 condos and a 28-car basement garage. The city’s South End has been attracting a lot of posh developmental dollars lately; homes are a better use of space than some sentimental notion of God’s House sitting fallow.
No more than a single person even came to the Boston Redevelopment Authority meeting to protest the development. Christine M. Quagan, a member of the Committee to Preserve Holy Trinity Parish, called the sale a disservice to a time “when the church was proud of its long service to the poor.” Other than Quagan’s objection, the process went through without any handwringing. Soon they’ll be trucking out pews.
Really there’s no reason for anyone to be surprised by this, and most aren’t despite a Globe column bemoaning the lack of bemoaning. We’re less religious. There’s a long tradition of taking churches and turning them into often beautiful homes, restaurants, hotels, and even breweries which the Almighty keeps letting pass without turning the developers into salt pillars.
If we want to get dark we could get into the reasons church attendance in Boston circa 2004 was too low to keep Holy Trinity open. I’d bet a Sunday collection plate worth of singles that a few former altar boys wouldn’t put real estate deals on the top of the list as far moves that “tore the soul” of Boston’s diocese.