Saint James Place will open in mid-2016 as a home for small and mid-size Berkshire County arts groups in need of quality performance, rehearsal and office space. Saint James Place will also be a state-of the-art cultural center, where residents can enjoy music, theater, dance and other performances along with lectures, classes and meetings year-round in the heart of downtown Great Barrington. Saint James Place will also be available to host events of all kinds including weddings, conferences, reunions and receptions.
Great Barrington residents own and operate Saint James Place Inc., a secular non-profit organization created in 2010 to both preserve the historic St. James Episcopal Church on Main Street and convert it into a vibrant performance and meeting space with modern facilities.
Saint James Place will also return the People’s Pantry to its original home at the church, with 500 square feet of dedicated space and its own private entrance. The food pantry’s relocation to downtown Great Barrington, steps from a major bus route, will make it more accessible for those who lack transportation and cannot reach its current location on Rte. 41.
Saint James Place is governed by a board of directors, who are currently developing a sustainable model for the building into perpetuity. SJP plans to charge affordable rents to small and mid-sized groups for performance, rehearsal and office space, and keep costs low with the help of supplemental revenue from a limited number of weddings and receptions.
St. James church, built in 1857, has a rich history of performing arts, reaching back decades. The architecture, the size of its sanctuary, its location, and most especially its exquisite proven acoustics, attracted the Aston Magna Music Festival, Close Encounters with Music, and Berkshire Bach to begin there.
In 2008, a portion of the rear stone wall of the former St. James Episcopal Church collapsed, forcing the congregation to permanently vacate the building. Unable to financially address the necessary and significant structural issues of the condemned building, the church and adjoining parish hall were slated for demolition in 2010. Community efforts and a resounding public outcry at the proposed demolition led residents Sally & Fred Harris to create Saint James Place, a secular 501(c)(3) to rescue this iconic, historic treasure of the town.
The church, and the adjoining parish hall, which was added in 1911, are prominently located on Main Street in Great Barrington, at the intersection of two historic districts. The buildings are being completely restored and repurposed into a thriving, year round cultural center, whose mission is to serve the needs of residents, and visitors while helping local arts and social service organizations who strive to fulfill their missions without the benefit of an affordable, year-round home.