Hope for St. Joseph's Church in Laconia

The Diocese has called off a sale that involved the demolition of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in downtown Laconia.

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When news hit that the recently-merged parish would have to demolish the 1929 building on Church Street in order to meet the needs of a purchase and sale agreement, church members and city residents grew alarmed. Community members sought advice from the Preservation Alliance, held meetings, wrote letters to the Diocese and the Vatican, and proposed the creation of a local historic district to halt demolition.

On May 30, the NH Preservation Alliance, Tom Mayes from the National Trust, and Father Georges de Laires discussed the matter on an episode of NHPR’s The Exchange.

Unfortunately, the demolition permit was filed before any district could be created and the only real tools the Heritage Commission could wield were public pressure and a demolition delay of 30 days.

Public pressure may have paid off.

Though the demolition permit has not yet been pulled, the Diocese’s decision to renegotiate the purchase and sale agreement is a promising start. Future hurdles will include how best to reuse St. Joseph’s. The Catholic Church imposes limitations on uses for former places or worship, but we’re fortunate to have several examples of reuse here in New Hampshire, including:

-St. Keiran’s in Berlin now serves as a community center for the arts

-St. Anne’s in Manchester provides after-school programs (side note: this property will soon be for sale after the merger between NHIA and New England College)

-Sacred Heart in Concord has been converted into beautiful condominiums for ten families

For more information about developing news out of Laconia and St. Joseph’s Church, read The Laconia Daily Sun article here.

For an editorial from the Concord Monitor, click here.