After dark, when throngs of commuters have left Roxbury’s Dudley Square, the lights still burn brightly at Hibernian Hall. It has been that way for most of the building’s 100 years, even after the curtains stopped closing on Irish step dances and then Jewish bat mitzvahs. The bustle of life has continued at Hibernian Hall even as Dudley Square stood neglected and isolated while the rest of the city sizzled with development.
And, supporters say, it will be that way for generations to come, as hope rises from the dust of once-barren lots that dot the square, and as a new generation of African-Americans, Somalis, and Salvadorans flocks to the hall to hold weddings, birthday celebrations, and graduation fetes.
“In a way, Hibernian Hall is a link to the past,’’ says the hall’s artistic director Dillon Bustin. “But in another way, it is also carrying the same function, which is a gathering place.’’
The four-story hall stands on a strip of Dudley Square, at a gateway to downtown and in the commercial heart of Boston’s African-American community.
In 1913, after years of organizing and fund-raising, the Ancient Order of Hibernians opened the building as one of five Irish dance halls in Roxbury. It is the only one still standing. The Hibernians wanted “a suitable building for the purpose of meetings, lectures, concerts, and gatherings,’’ according to a synopsis of the building’s history, stored in a metal time capsule that was unveiled earlier this year to mark the hall’s centennial.
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