Friday, July 21, 2006

The Cardinal Club?

From Boston, yet something else you couldn't make up if you wanted to:

The Italianate manse that came to symbolize the Archdiocese of Boston over a century as the grand residence of archbishops of Boston is now a candidate for conversion to a new branch of the Boston College club, where alumni and friends of the Jesuit university network, hobnob, dine, and maybe even sleep.

Boston College, which acquired the 40-room house as part of a $107 million purchase of archdiocesan land in 2004, recently sent an e-mail survey to thousands of East Coast alumni, suggesting that ``the development of a new private club" for alumni in the building that the college called ``a highly visible landmark property."

The idea, which college officials insist is just preliminary, provides the first hint of how the university imagines it might use the iconic structure, which has been the subject of much speculation since it was acquired by BC....

Ironically, the building was completed in 1927 for a Boston College alumnus, Cardinal William Henry O'Connell, who graduated from The Heights in 1881. O'Connell's successor -archbishops lived there until Law's resignation in 2002. The next year, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, a Capuchin friar, moved out of the building into a shabby cathedral rectory in the South End, and in 2004 he sold the structure.

Not only did the archdiocese agree to sell O'Connell's house, and the nearby hill on which he is buried, but it has also agreed to exhume his body and remove his tomb. Church officials are still trying to find the appropriate place to relocate O'Connell's remains.

The conversion of the house into an alumni club, even for his own alma mater, would not make O'Connell happy, according to his biographer, Boston College history professor James M. O'Toole.

``He would probably be horrified that anybody other than himself or his successors was living there," O'Toole said.

Remember what O'Connell told the Sulpicians when he ordered them to vacate even their cemetery to make way for his mausoleum: "Dig up your dead, and take them with you."

In other Boston buzz, what's this about a recent dinner at Anthony's Pier 4?

AP File/Michael Dwyer