M. Pelletier: Preserve St. Joseph's

Many thanks to the Lewiston Historic Preservation Board for looking into the St. Joseph’s Church demolition. It seems that Central Maine HealthCare is more interested in a cost-efficient solution than the preservation of Lewiston’s history.

Commemorating the hard work, sacrifices and donations made to keep that building alive for more than 100 years by replacing it with a parking lot and a marker would be a slap in the face to this community’s Irish people and their descendants. Mildred Whittingham, a pillar of St. Joseph’s Church and whose father helped build it , must be giving God quite an earful on this matter.

Hopefully, the community will do everything possible to preserve that historic building.

Marguerite Pelletier, Lewiston

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Not too...

Not so far gone... I've seen far worse... St. Brigid's in New York City where a bulldozer blow a gapping hole through the back wall. Where sledge hammer wielding thugs smashed in the lower panels of the stained glass windows...

To break our will.

Church still standing. Thugs are forgotten... into the mists of time.

Jason Theriault's picture


You know, it's one thing to say "We should save it" and another to actually do it.
You want to preserve this building? From the sounds of it, it would be very expensive, like over million dollar expensive. Who is going to pay for it?

Maine municipalities are facing major cuts from the state, and are looking to make major cuts to useful things like public works and schools, and you want to drop multi-millions on a building that no one is using?

Or were you going to fundraise to save it? If so, why didn't you start in 2009 when they closed the church? Put it this way - the time to fundraise is over. The building is falling apart, and sooner than you think, it would have to be razed over safety concerns.

Jason Theriault's picture

The time to save it

The time to save it was years ago. That church is dead. It has been deconsecrated, it's parishioners gone and the building left for it's final fate. Much like a body awaiting it's burial, it's a shell. A reminder of what once existed but that exists no more.

Remember the good times, and then let it go.

Words of wisdom...

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
? George Orwell

Jason Theriault's picture

More Words of wisdom...

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

Don't be myopic...

True, one shouldn't live in the past, nor obsessively dream of the future. But one should acknowledge it, remember it, and consider it for living in the present, and for planning for the future.

In my hometown, the state college has established The Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. History is important. It informs who we are, where we are going.

Jason Theriault's picture

Let me ask you this

Let me ask you this, what's myopic about tearing down a dilapidated building. There are plenty of examples of of the architecture of the era and to be fair, as long as Saint Peter and Paul is standing, I think the best example of the era is safe.

Put it this way, if the church held enough cultural and societal influence, someone would have stepped up to save it. No one has, save for a few people who pine for the good old days.

Jason, It is myopic in


It is myopic in that St. Joseph's has tremendous social heritage. It lies literally on the fault line that has divided Lewiston for decades and decades. A social fault line that places it physically near the Masonic Hall on Hospital Square. The fault line between worker and management, Catholic and Protestant, Immigrant and Nativist, Have and Have-not, between the existence of the two hospitals, ....

St. Joseph's is far more than "a dilapidated building." It is an important symbol of what happened in Lewiston.

Jason Theriault's picture

"St. Joseph's is far more

"St. Joseph's is far more than "a dilapidated building." It is an important symbol of what happened in Lewiston."

Yes, and it will continue to be a symbol, as much of the city is run down and needs to be razed, then rebuilt into something useful. I would guess that CMMC will make it a parking lot so it can later on build a new building there. I'm sorry, but I don't see the same value in that church, and I think it is too far gone to be saved.

Jeff Johnson's picture

A slap in the face

There's an extremely simple solution: Why don't you organize "this community’s Irish people and their descendants" to find out whether or not they want to keep St. Joes?

CMMC has made it clear from the beginning what they wanted the property for.
The Catholic church has made it clear they weren't interested in the building when a) they combined St. Joe's with another parish, and b) sold the building to CMMC.

CMMC owns the property. I'll bet they'll take a reasonable offer if you wanted to buy it back for historical reasons.

There aren't enough Catholics or Catholic priests to fill out a parish for St. Joe's.

This is similar to the Lewiston Maineiacs situation... lots of outrage and bluster when the team left for financial reasons. We as a community couldn't support them... You as a parish couldn't support the church.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

So Marguerite, where were you

So Marguerite, where were you over the past 4 years when the building sat vacant? CMMC has always been clear on their intended use for the property.

It is as if CMMC jumped into a pond on a hot summer day and emerged from the pond covered with leaches.

Yes, I’m calling all these people leaches because they are say nothing, do noting people until someone with deep pockets purchases St. Joseph’s. They emerge as leaches attached to the host.

If I were CMMC, I would rather let the building rot on site rather than subject myself these bullies.

I don't feel like a ...

I don't feel like a leech. I don't think Marguerite does either...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The Pirate was going to post

The Pirate was going to post a comment, but you'd have been justified in accusing him of plagiarism.
You have stated it very well. Although I hate to see St. Joseph's Church disappear and become just another parking lot, the time to have spoken up and done something about this situation was 4 years ago, but instead, we all sat on our duffs and remained silent; the Pirate included. Shame on US.

Not too late...

A similar situation existed in Manchester, NH where another Irish church that survived the Know-Nothing Era had been closed and shuttered and stripped of artifacts. The Ancient Order of the Hibernians rallied up to save the church. They even linked arms around the church in protest. Their bold stance saved the day. Brady-Sullivan stepped forward and acquired and repaired the church and gave it to the NH Institute of Art.

Is Lewiston as bold and imaginative as Manchester, NH?

Or will you whimper and cower in the corner.

And fall further from grace?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The Churches have been closed

The Churches have been closed due to financial problems, in large part, precipitated by lack of attendance. Hard to imagine the same people who walked away and left it empty are now going to step up to keep it upright. Human Nature 101 says it ain't gonna happen. Lewiston, Maine and Manchester, NH are different in more ways than a 2 1/2 hour drive.

Like da Killah Bees...

In Manchester, they don't whimper.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I wouldn't be pushing that

I wouldn't be pushing that "whimper" card too far.


"Well, I wouldn't push it Joe"
---The Milagro Beanfield War

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Yeah, that one.

Yeah, that one.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I'm willing to put money down

I'm willing to put money down that those complaining the most never invested any dollars or time in the Church in the first place. Yet they are the first to say "our" community for which they did not invest in except physial presence.

I hope not much money.

You might be surprised on how people feel about preservation and culture.

It was the pennies of school children across the nation that saved the USS Constitution.

Some years back when the First Baptist Church of Peterborough, NH burned, I sent in the first $100, challenging others to do likewise. The church was saved and now serves as the Mariposa Museum.

See: http://www.locallookpeterborough.com/play/detail/mariposa-museum-peterbo...

Follow this example here:

St. Anne's Church

See: http://www.nhia.edu/st-anne-s-church/


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