The UUA HQ move

So, by this point anyone with an ear to Unitarian Universalist news knows that the headquarters and guesthouse buildings on Beacon Hill in Boston — four in all — are up for sale, to be replaced with a lease-to-own building just over in South Boston. Readers might be amazed to hear that I approve of this action; in my professional life, I have financial and facilities responsibilities for a nonprofit organization. A building with flat floors and potiential rental income — bring it! I’ll miss 25 Beacon Street, too, but my happiest thoughts are looking at in fron the outside. Just getting into the reception hall took an effort… I don’t recall the offices in good terms. The charms of Boston Conmmon aside, I’m glad I didn’t have to work there. (On the other hand, I think loose talk about moving cities is easy enough to refute. Unless you want to re-hire the whole staff. Cue death-knell.)

After all, this isn’t the first such change. That the current building is the second 25 Beacon Street is well-known. And that nearby 16 Beacon Street, a Unitarian building once used by Universalist General Convention, was long since sold. I’ve written about other Universalist office spaces in Boston before — all gone now. But I regret the loss of their work, not the buildings.

Scouting for other documents this week, I found this 1914 photo at Harvard University Library, of “Boylston St. Looking E. from Arlington St. Birdseye View from Universalist Bldg” not far from the soon-to-be-lost buildings, and presumably quite close to Arlington Street Church. Looking at the photo I noted the Hotel Thorndike, and — not finding anything about the Universalist Building — looked it up, imagining myself a century-ago visitor to Boston. I even found a dining room menu from 1907. But as strange as some of the offerings now seem odd or really quite interesting, that time has past, and we have enough work today to bother with time-consuming historic reconstruction.

Time to greet 24 Farnworth Street, and move on.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I’ve been mulling over the new reality. I do feel sad to see 25 Beacon Street go. And I do wish that they had been able to keep one of the buildings as a conference center. I also know that form must always fit function. This is one of those principles of evolutionary biology. So here is hoping that the new form is the best fit for the new function.

  2. So glad to hear this. I was in the company of some colleagues today who were engaging in grand critique of the decision and I am afraid I responded quite impatiently.

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