Museum buying last home of Monitor founder

Christian Science Church is shifting resources from real estate to church activities.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The house where Mary Baker Eddy lived from 1908 to 1910 is being sold to the Longyear Foundation, which operates an independent museum focused on the life of Mrs. Eddy and her early students.

The 35-room home at 400 Beacon Street in Chestnut Hill, Mass., is where Mrs. Eddy oversaw the founding of this newspaper. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston signed an agreement to sell the 8.3-acre site for $13.3 million.

The sales agreement is part of a comprehensive plan the church announced in April to make significant changes in its real estate holdings, citing a desire to focus more single-mindedly on its spiritual ministry and to devote less time and money to property management. Real-estate-related expenses currently absorb 25 percent of the church budget.

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In September, the church reported it had sold Mrs. Eddy's former residence in Lynn, Mass., to Longyear for $700,000. In October, church officials briefed Boston city officials on their desire to enter into a planning process aimed at securing permission to redevelop the denomination's 14-acre plaza in Boston's Back Bay section.

Nathan Talbot, chairman of the Christian Science Board of Directors, said in a statement, "When we weigh all that Mrs. Eddy said about her homes, we feel the steps we are taking are consistent with her guidance." Mr. Talbot added, "We aren't arguing with those who want to preserve homes. But we do feel the vital need to call our movement's attention to consider earnestly where their spiritual priorities are...." He noted Mrs. Eddy's "constant call for emphasis on spiritualization of thought, transformation of lives, healing the sick and sinful, and raising the dead."

The Longyear Foundation, based in Chestnut Hill, will own eight of Mrs. Eddy's former residences. The Beacon Street home was purchased in a competitive- bidding process, says Barbara Burley, the church's senior real estate executive.

In accordance with terms of Mrs. Eddy's will, proceeds from the sale of the Beacon Street and Lynn homes will be placed in a special fund. It will be devoted to maintaining the Original Mother Church and its Extension, and Mrs. Eddy's former home at 385 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, which is used, at Mrs. Eddy's request, as the official residence for the church's first reader. The sale proceeds also will be used for "the promotion and extension of Christian Science."

Mrs. Eddy moved to the Chestnut Hill residence on Jan. 26, 1908. In August 1908 she called for the publishing of a daily newspaper, and on Nov. 25, 1908, the first edition of the Monitor, containing an editorial by Mrs. Eddy, was delivered to her new home. During this same period, she also authorized the first foreign- language translation of the denomination's textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," which is now available in 17 languages. She lived at 400 Beacon Street until her passing on Dec. 3, 1910.

"We will undertake an assessment of the structural needs of the house and property, which will determine when it can be opened to the public," Longyear Museum Director/Curator Stephen Howard said in a statement.

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