LEWISTON — The future of St. Joseph’s Church on Main Street will be in the hands of the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board on Thursday.

The board is scheduled to review Central Maine Healthcare’s plan to raze the 159-year-old church and the nearby rectory. The company plans to use the land for parking.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. in City Hall.

Central Maine Healthcare bought the church at 253 Main St. and the adjacent buildings for $125,000 in May.

Gil Arsenault, Lewiston’s director of planning and code enforcement, said the board has to agree that paying to maintain the building would not be economically feasible for the owners.

“(Central Maine Healthcare has) made that argument already,” Arsenault said. “So, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.”

The buildings include the Victorian and Gothic-themed church, a three-story Victorian-style rectory and a boiler building. The church includes a three-bay sanctuary, a basement and a balcony with access to a belfry. The church has about 8,500 square feet of space, and the rectory has about 3,500 square feet.

According to an architectural and structural study and review of the church filed by Central Maine Healthcare, the building’s cornerstone was lain in 1854 and the church opened three years later.

It was designed by Irish-born architect Patrick C. Keely, who went on to design more than 600 churches around the world, including four in Maine.

Basement frescoes were added in 1877, stained-glass windows in 1917 and 12 bronze bells in 1926. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

The Catholic Diocese decommissioned the church in 2009 and the frescoes and stained-glass windows were removed.

“The church itself is a fully regulated structure,” Arsenault said. “To demolish that building, they’ll need a certificate of appropriateness from the board, and there is no guarantee they can get that.”

The rectory and boiler building were constructed some time later and are not included in the historic preservation.

“With respect to the rectory, as a matter of right, that building can be removed,” Arsenault said. “They just have to go through the process.”

According to the hospital’s report, entire sections of the basement have rotted to the point that they are unsafe and should be avoided, while the wood around the choir balcony and the bell tower appear to be in good shape.

The study says it would cost $500,000 to adapt the church for reuse. That would involve removing and replacing the building’s ventilation and heating system.

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