CMMC to tear down St. Joseph's Church in Lewiston

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Central Maine Healthcare has purchased the former St. Joseph's Church on Main Street in Lewiston. The building will be torn down to make room for a parking lot.

LEWISTON — Central Maine Healthcare has purchased the long-vacant St. Joseph's, the oldest Catholic church in the city, and plans to tear it down.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Central Maine Healthcare has purchased the former St. Joseph's Church on Main Street in Lewiston. The building will be torn down to make room for a parking lot. 

In its place will be 50 to 60 parking spaces, said Chuck Gill, CMH's vice president for public affairs.

"It's a vacant building that's in bad condition right now," Gill said Tuesday. "It can't be used for anything, at least the church itself." The rectory, which sits beside the church on Main Street, could be rescued and renovated.

Central Maine Healthcare paid $125,000 for the church, Gill said.

Lewiston's Prince of Peace Parish announced the sale over the weekend. On Tuesday, Monsignor Marc Caron called it "another sad chapter."

"It is a day that we expected at some point," he said. "From the beginning we said, 'If it is to close, it is to close to be put on the market.'"

It has been on the market for a while.

The 156-year-old brick complex at 253 Main St. has been unused since October 2009, when Lewiston Catholics closed it and St. Patrick's church overlooking Kennedy Park. In both cases, the churches were becoming too costly to operate.

Final Masses were held and the churches were deconsecrated.

Ideally, Caron hoped another Christian group would come forward with a plan to reuse the building. None did. The market is particularly tough on church buildings, he said. They don't easily transform into other uses.

In January 2011, the stone-built United Baptist Church across the street was razed after sitting on the market for years. It became a parking lot.

Gill did not disclose a timeline for St. Joseph's demolition. It will be mourned. Generations were baptized, confirmed, married and eulogized there.

"We owe a lot to that church and that location," Caron said.

The cornerstone of the building was laid June 13, 1864, according to a parish history published in 2007. The church was designed by architect Patrick Keely of New York and opened in 1897.

The building was known for its columned nave and the stained glass in almost every window, much of it hand-painted with extraordinary detail. Murals were painted in the 1920s by Monmouth artist Harry Cochran, according to the church's history.

Since its closure in 2009, the parish has been paying for some building and site maintenance. It has also paid property taxes, Caron said.

The building has fallen into disrepair, Gill said.

"It's kind of an unsafe building," he said. "There are foundation problems and a lot of other problems."

However, the health care group's need for parking made the lot attractive.

The parking issue has become especially acute as CMH's Lowell Square Building, nearby at 29 Lowell St., has begun to employ more people, Gill said.

"What was driving this was our need for parking and the parish's need to sell the building," he said.

Gill said the health care group plans to be respectful of the church's history, probably installing a historical marker on the site.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

I can't believe this turned

I can't believe this turned into a religion-bashing fight. We're missing the two key issues with this.

1. This is no place for a parking lot. As downtown Lewiston continues to provide the best environment for urbanism in the Twin Cities area, we need to be focusing on how we can continue to bring a smart urban environment to Lewiston's downtown. This is a crucial spot in the city and putting a parking lot here is a terrible step backward. Some of the city's best architecture lies very close to this building, this building included. A parking lot will be a giant zit on the face of downtown. This is what we should be most outraged over.

2. This is indeed an important building in our city's history. Whether you are religious or not, our city's history is closely tied to its Catholic heritage, and this building is a perfect representation of this.

Randall Pond's picture

What's Next?!

Why do we have to tear down Churches? Why do we no longer care what happens to houses of worship?

This hits very hard for me. St. Joesph's Church was one the only Catholic Church in the area where I sang in the Choir when first moved to Lewiston way back in 1989. I also sang in the Choir at United Baptist church as well. I cried when they tore down that church. I probably will when this one is as well.

Sad this will make the Second Catholic church in the L/A are to have to be torn down. A SIN INDEED!

Jake Paris's picture

a number of complaints & rants mashed together

CMMC should encourage their staff to be healthy and walk a little bit by asking them to use the garage on canal street. It's only 4 blocks, which is nothing. On another note, a parking lot instead of a garage in a downtown area is STUPID. There should be some sort of zoning requirement that all downtown parking areas over X square footage should have to be 3+ tier parking garages. It's like were TRYING to be a little backwater town instead of a real city.

Instead of tearing down this church, CMMC should have used that $125k to build a garage in that lot that's right next to the Dunkin Donuts.

The fact that the Catholic churches are drying up is sad, as it is also sad to see this beautiful piece of architecture go away, as it is also sad to see the utter lack of leadership and vision in this city to grow it as a city. "LA: parking lots are happening here!" or maybe "LA: keep getting fatter while you walk less and less!" or maybe... nah, I better stop there...

 's picture

Out with the old

Out with the old and the lovely.

In with the new and the ugly.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Proceeds of sale

The Church should do the humane move to donate all of those monies to clinics and organizations that assist sexually abused children.

Tobey Johnson's picture

more of what Lewiston wants

This is a historic building, an actual piece of art and history that Lewiston should be embracing not destroying. With all that's happened in this city over the past few years, never mind the recent tragedies, you would think that Lewiston would want to try to fix this rather than adding another parking lot. That is a popular thing in Lewiston, all kind of parking lots and not much else. What was that slogan the marketing minds came up with......"LA its happening here!" Yeah, it sure is happening here.

Andrew Jones's picture

The church already abandoned

The church already abandoned it due to the costs of upkeep. Who do you expect to pay for it, Tobey?

Tobey Johnson's picture

Who should pay for it.............

Who paid for the apartment buildings on Knox Street and Blake Street to get totally redone several years ago? Lewiston homeowners and tax payers all pay too much in taxes as it is for Lewiston, so there must be tax dollars available for other projects around Lewiston. Besides, no one (including me) ever said it has to be done right now or in the next year or two. The Bates Mills took time, and over time now they have become very accommodating buildings with a lot of purpose. Businesses are in there, one of the largest employers in Lewiston/Auburn in TD Bank has filled Mill 7 and 3 for back office operations, Androscoggin Bank has a back office further down, beer distributor, Davinci's, and now there are going to be nice studio apartments available. The work that was done around there, and the railroad station, and the fountain down next to the corner of Main St and Lincoln St, didn't happen over night. So why do you think its something that has to be paid for now?

Andrew Jones's picture

I will be the first in line

I will be the first in line to raise hell if tax money is used to renovate a church that the church declined to pay for themselves. Why should the city pick up the tab on repairing a property that hasn't been assessed property tax in 150 years?

Tobey Johnson's picture

reply

Do you really think that your tax dollars haven't been used to up keep any other buildings and properties that haven't been assessed property tax? Really? Hate to break it to you, your tax dollars, can and will be used any way the city/government wants.

Andrew Jones's picture

I bet none of the properties

I bet none of the properties were tax exempt like this church is. Church doesn't want to pay? Fine, CMMC gets a new parking lot and the city gets a new parcel to assess taxes on. Separation of church and state sucks when the shoe is on the other foot, huh?

Tobey Johnson's picture

Not

There isn't a separation in church and state. Only when it is convenient to government. I could continue on and explain myself further but it seem's to be pointless at this point. I'm getting yelled at every which way for 1 comment, 1. Never mind reading any of my other post, just focus on the one....cause its convenient.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

My issue is with the

My issue is with the separation of church and state....the House and Senate both open their sessions with a prayer, the national anthem, and the pledge of allegiance...yet our children cannot pray in school....how is anything separation of church and state when this occurs within our capital building at the start of each day?

Randall Pond's picture

repairing St. Joe's

The Catholic church should have Paid for it, instead of sending so much money to ROME!

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Step further

The church should of gave the money to those boys that the priest molested and ruined their lives.

Bob White's picture

Tobey I'm sure they would

Tobey I'm sure they would just as well sell you the property all you have to do is buy it then you can do to it what ever your heart tells you to. Other then that don't recommend what other people should do.

Tobey Johnson's picture

LOL

Oh well, I'd do that, no problem. But CMMC already purchased it, and I really don't want to buy the land. But again, as the other's who are debating me, you found 1 sentence and run with it. I didn't nor haven't recommended anything, start reading what was written, and not just what you want to read.

Tobey Johnson's picture

What is there to disagree about?

To the 2 people who "disagree" what in my 2 and a half lines of me saying I'd buy it but CMMC already did and I don't want the land? Do you know that I really do want to buy it? Or are you disagreeing about CMMC buying it? Considering your options of disagreeing on what I said, its baseless just like most of the comments that I've been receiving in that last day and a half.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Parking lot

Will belong to CMMC, they will use it for their personnel for parking and charge patients if they have room. Lewiston would just issue the permit to build, with the property tax still going to the City. Win Win.... removal of a just a building that has deteriorated is the right thing to do, before it creates lawsuits and possible deaths.

Think about it, how many people would go to visit a church, unless it had some historical event that occurred at it? Maybe St. Peters as the majestic basilica it profoundly displays could make an argument.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Tear down all the churches

Tear down all the churches and move out of the dark ages. Religion is for the weak minded.

Tobey Johnson's picture

Weak

Religion is for the weak minded? That is a weak statement. Society in a whole is going down the crapper while most of the liberal loud mouth's are pushing God away from society? Coincidence? I think not. Your comment is exactly what is wrong with a lot of the world today, lack of respect, lack of morals and character, all 3 things that are taught with the words in the Bible. If having a belief in God and heaven means I'm in the dark ages and weak minded, I'd rather be that then blinded by the ignorance that this world is heading to.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Jesus was a liberal....

Easy solution to that heart-breaking dilemmas: Stop railing against equal rights for ALL Americans, keep your religious beliefs out of the deeply personal decisions of total strangers, and learn to mind your own business for your own personal beliefs.
"Problem" solved.

Tobey Johnson's picture

really

I'm not even going to bother to continue this discussion with you Jerry. You have your opinion, I respect that, I have mine, you obviously don't respect that. For the last time, I wasn't pushing my religious beliefs on deeply person decisions to total strangers, I was simply giving MY OPINION on the issues that was said of weak minded and dark ages.....just as you are stating YOUR OPINION on mine of religion being pushed away is my opinion of why things are going to hell in this world. You disagree, fine, but you making this personal and attacking me with name calling and what not isn't proving your point, its only showing your lack of being able to debate intelligently. And that's the bottom line!

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Oh contraire!

liberal loudmouths are pushing God away from society?????

Take a long hard look into the mirror, sparky!

Society, the world, today have a choice, called FREEDOM of worship or not and embrace that choice, whereas the talibanism mentality of the right wingers is to ram their beliefs---this is what is making people look at religion in a whole new light. That the church harboured pedophiles, and demonized the very people that Jesus would have wanted you to bring closer and not push them away, and calling them evil.

Just because they have a different outlook is not even close to your wild ascertain that lack of respect, lack of morals and character, all 3 things that are taught with the words in the Bible. There are hundreds of religions not just your Bible thumping rhetoric beliefs.

It is the exact comments like yours that open peoples eyes to who is really brainwashed.....that hose right wing religious whackjobs are the very ones that push people away. Take some responsibility and read your book and don't blame liberals, blame yourselves first.

Tobey Johnson's picture

Sparky?

So is it safe for me to assume I'm sparky?

My comment was generalized. I know not all left wing liberals are atheists or non believers, whatever you want to call it. But I see that sensitive Nancy's need everything spelled out in crayon in order for you to "get it." What I was commenting on or referring to, think back to your time as a child, you look to be the age of my parents, if I'm wrong, I'm sorry. But, say the 1950's, did you read/hear stories all the time dominating the news and papers about children out of control, committing real crimes, talking disrespectfully to their parents and other figure's of authority? Maybe one or two....but not everyday. I remember when I was in first grade, we had an old school teacher, who did what she wanted and didn't care who was offended by it. We said the pledge of allegiance before the start of class, we prayed before we started class.....EVERY DAY! There is a lack of respect and character with younger kids these days, you're blind if you don't see it. For me, I've been born again, I've hit bottom and found God again and I'm at peace, that's all. I do not push it on people. I'm not doing that on here, I'm stating my opinion, which as you say, I have that freedom to do. Most of my family have fought in wars for that freedom, I love this country and I hate seeing it going to crap. Lewiston used to be a very proud city with a lot of great, hard working people in it. Now, there still is a lot of great and hard working people in the city.
The original reason for this, if you read my post, not just my reply to a opinion of religion and weak minded, was about another parking lot being placed where there used to be a church that people used to go to but also a piece of history that people, especially younger ones should appreciate and learn about. There have been a lot of other buildings being torn down for development, but you never actually see anything developed. I'd rather see something that isn't considered a historic piece of Lewiston history get torn down instead of a building that could be restored in time; whether that is a church or an old mill or whatever. Bates Mill's have been restored and made into useful structures, the same can be done to this church and still get more parking for CMMC which they do need.
Is that Sparky enough for ya?

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

My mistake

I rolled your comment and Erics into the same conjoined statement...I was just catching that when your reply popped...

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

I think you misunderstood my

I think you misunderstood my comment. I'm atheist, but I also recognize that the far left lunatics are a danger to society.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Two way highway...honk -- honk

So much as the Far right too....are a danger to society.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Religion has been the leading

Religion has been the leading cause of war since the beginning of civilization. Morals, respect, and character do not require religion. That being said, the liberal sodomites actually sicken me more than the bible thumpers.

Amy Flowers's picture

Central to the Downtown

This church is an anchor to a historic neighborhood and centerpiece of Kennedy Park. Isn't there anything that can be done to save it before it's too late? I'm thinking of the lovely and successful Grace Church restaurant in Portland. Surely there is SOME use for such a historic and notable building!

GARY SAVARD's picture

Amy, you're thinking of St.

Amy, you're thinking of St. Patrick's Church, not St. Joseph's.

Amy Flowers's picture

Yes I was

Thanks Gary, you're right, I was thinking of St. Patrick's. Although I still think it's also true of St. Joseph's that it will damage the surrounding neighborhood. Thanks for the correction.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Amy, It is too bad to see

Amy, It is too bad to see them go, but I toured both St. Joe's and St. Pat's last July, and they are in need of extensive and expensive rehab. Both have mold issues as well as structural problems, and alternate uses are virtually nil in their locations. There isn't much off street parking at either church, which is also a drawback. I attended St. Patrick's School for eight years. I have many fond, (and not so fond), memories of those times, but things change.

 's picture

I, for one am disgusted that

I, for one am disgusted that CMMC is planning on tearing down this building only to replace it with a parking lot. This building is not only a landmark, but it is a very well traveled area which would seem like a better idea that IF it had to be demolished that something other then a parking lot be put in its place. Sad to see it go, sad to see yet another parking lot.

How come CMMC can't build another parking garage to help "relieve" their parking woes?

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Hmmm guess this hospital

Hmmm guess this hospital isn't in "DIRE" straights by not having received payment. Just another example of Lepage wanting the rich to get richer.

CMMC to tear down St. Joseph's Church in

Sad, at least my mom isn't around to see it's final end, 1st the United Baptist, then this; so many memories!

 's picture

Don't it always seem to

Don't it always seem to go,
That you don't know what you got 'til it's gone.
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

Carl Kimball's picture

TO BAD, IT'S A LAND MARK

Sorry, to see it go.

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