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More than 200 Roxbury neighbors turn out for tour, ribbon cutting at newly-restored Alvah Kittredge House

Yawu Miller | 8/13/2014, 12:36 p.m.
Historic Boston Inc. completed a $3.8 million restoration of the historic Alvah Kittredge House in Roxbury’s Highland Park neighborhood and ...
On hand to celebrate the ribbon cutting of the newly-renovated Alvah Kittredge House in Roxbury (see p. 3) are state Rep. Byron Rushing, UMass Boston Professor Kwame Mark Freeman and Northeastern University Vice President for Public Affairs Bob Gittens. (Banner photo)

For the more than 200 people who turned out for the ribbon cutting on the Alva Kittredge House in Roxbury’s Highland Park section, the event was somewhat of a homecoming — not just for longtime Roxbury residents who remember the building’s past incarnation as the headquarters of the Roxbury Action Program, but also for the building itself.

In the two decades since RAP closed down, the 19th century Greek Revival manse had been in a steady decline, inside and out. Now, after a $3.8 million restoration job by Historic Boston Incorporated, the building is coming back on line with five apartments, two of them affordable units.

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A crowd of more than 200 people turned out for the ribbon cutting at the newly restored Alvah Kittredge House in Roxbury. (Banner photo)

With the doors opened to spectators for the first time in more than 20 years, community residents gawked at the newly-restored interior — the marbled glass ceiling in the foyer, the restored woodwork surrounding the eight-foot tall windows on the first floor, the restored spiraling stairway that leads to an octagonal cupola at the top of the building.

“It’s unbelievable,” gushed local historian Richard Heath. “It’s a beautiful job. A resurrection.”

Circulating through the renovated interior was a who’s who of Roxbury — former RAP housing planner Dan Richardson, former RAP volunteer Marlena Richardson, Paige Academy founders Angela Page and Joe Cook, state representatives Byron Rushing and Gloria Fox, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Fort Hill neighbors including Joyce Stanley, John Kyper, Mimi Jones, Bob Marshall, Kwame Mark Freeman, Napoleon Jones Henderson and Celia Grant.

Like the Richardsons, many of those in attendance recalled the building’s days as RAP’s meeting space where neighborhood activists planned the future of the Roxbury community.

“It was safe enough to work in,” recalled Marlena Richardson. “It wasn’t too dilapidated.”

“This is one of the architectural gems in this neighborhood,” Stanley said. “I am glad this got done. I thought we were going to lose this building.”

Also in attendance were city officials past and present. Mayor Martin Walsh gave remarks. Past Department of Neighborhood Development director Chuck Grigsby and current Director Sheila Dillon attended. After a speaking program, attendees picnicked in the park across Linwood Street from the Kittredge House.

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Mayor Martin Walsh and local officials prepare to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the Kittredge House. (Banner photo)

Vacant since the early 1990s, the 6,000-square foot Kittredge House has undergone five two-bedroom residential units, two of which are affordable housing. Built for Roxbury alderman, furniture maker and Eliot Congregational Church deacon Alvah Kittredge (1798-1876), the Kittredge House is said to be one of a handful of high style Greek Revival period houses remaining in Boston.

Originally part of a large estate in Fort Hill, the Kittredge House was also home to prominent 19th century architect Nathaniel Bradlee.

The apartments are leasing fast, according to a Historical Boston Incorporated press release.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority turned ownership of the property over to Historic Boston after taking the house by eminent domain in 2011 to save it from further deterioration. The city has contributed several hundred thousand dollars to the project in addition to federal, state and private funding that was raised to help preserve the landmark and aid in the construction of affordable housing.