We’ve got Spirit! Yes we do! We’ve got Spirit…how ’bout YOU?!?
Originally uploaded by andyi
Behold, the First Spiritualist Temple. In a city as old as Boston with so much history about it, a building really needs to pull its chin up over the bar before it merits someone saying “Wow, this building has some fascinating history.”
It was built in 1885, near the height of the Spiritualist movement. And this was a time when it wasn’t completely irrational to believe that communication with the dead was possible. Seances, mesmerism, spirit writing, remote viewing, exploration of past lives, even literal communication with God…you name it, it was practiced inside the Temple’s gorgeous worship space to an audience of respectful and well-dressed people.
Spiritualism had already hit its heyday and it didn’t really survive very far into the 20th century. So in 1914, the First Spiritualist Temple moved its services into the basement and converted the worship space into the Exeter Street Theater, which attracted worshipers and remote viewings of different kinds. It became one of those legendary stages and picture houses.
By the time I had discovered Newbury Street, the Exeter Street Theater had been closed for ten years. But you couldn’t be a movie fan and not be aware of how important this property was to film buffs. Even in 1984 it still had this palpable aura of incredible entertainment about it. When weather conditions were just right the buzzing would interfere with FM reception on your Walkman.
Ten years later, the theater space had been converted to a rather nice Waterstones bookstore and was one of the main venues for author tours.
Are you close to hating TGI Fridays and everything it represents, but you need just one more data point to seal the deal? Okay…look at the greenhouse-looking thing on the right side. That’s the former home of the Newbury Street TGI Fridays. One day, in the course of producing the exact same chicken parmesan that’s available in every other TGI Fridays anywhere in the country, there was a kitchen fire that caused so much smoke damage to the Temple that Waterstones (admittedly already suffering from competition with Amazon) had to go under.
And then ironically, the temple space was eventually taken over by Idealab, a dotcom startup incubator.
I think the space has been vacant since the last tech bubble burst in 2002 or 2003. Suffice to say that “Purchase the First Spiritualist Temple and convert it to living space” is on that list of Things To Do After I WIn The Powerball.
More realistically, on the inevitable day when I become the darling of DC or Marvel Comics, I am totally making the First Spiritualist Temple a regular location for Zatanna or Dr. Fate or Dr. Strange.