Demolition Alert 21: St. Joseph’s Church in Lewiston, Maine

Picture of St. Joseph's Church in Lewiston, Maine which will soon become a parking lot

St. Joseph’s Church in Lewiston, Maine which will soon become a parking lot.

This is unbelievable! The oldest Catholic Church in Lewiston, Maine, St. Joseph’s, is going to be torn down and turned into a parking lot. You read that right, a freaking parking lot!

This is from a story in the Sun Journal:

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

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 . . .

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.”

Here we go again with “fallen into disrepair” excuse for justifying the destruction of the historic fabric of Northern New England’s communities. Its a massive brick building, it can’t possibly be that far gone.

Also, the church sits on Main Street and a parking lot will leave a gaping hole in the street facade. You can see in the Google Map below that there is already a massive parking lot across the street. In that parking lot once stood stone-built United Baptist Church according to the Sun Journal story. Is every building in the area going to be razed to satisfy the parking demands of the hospital?

Alas, one has to wonder how much more demolition Lewiston can take. In a previous Demolition Alert we pointed out that the city of Lewiston, Maine has declared war on their vacant buildings and has set aside funds to tear them down. We ask the obvious question: How long can Lewiston even afford to tear down buildings in the face of a disappearing, literally, property tax base?

Another sad day for Lewiston . . .

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