The former St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church was built in 1890 to accommodate the religious needs of Bartlett’s growing immigrant population. Bartlett, being a logging and railroad hub by the late 1800s, boasted a significant number of French Canadian, Italian and Irish families who did not identify with their Congregational and Baptist neighbors. So, this humble church was constructed under the direction of Father J. N. Plante, from Lancaster, who recognized that the 34 mile train ride to his home parish was just too far.
St. Joseph’s was the first Catholic church built in the Mt. Washington Valley and it cost the then princely sum of $2,732.28 to build. For more than 100 years, St. Joseph’s was the epicenter of Catholic life in Bartlett as well as drawing from other areas of the valley. After a regional consolidation that closed the parish in 1999, the Bartlett School District purchased the building from the Diocese with the intention of using it for expanded education space. That plan was thwarted by high costs related to the need to abate asbestos, lead paint and mold. The building then was basically used as a storage facility.
Mounting deferred maintenance costs as well as the environmental hazards ultimately led to discussions of demolition. Members of the Bartlett Historical Society (BHS), along with a group of like-minded townspeople entered the scene and ultimately convinced the school district to delay any major decisions until it could be determined if there was sufficient interest in saving the building. The society took the lead in offering to rehabilitate the building and transform it into a historical museum, headquarters for the society and a genealogical and research center. With a long-term lease from the district in place, they started a capital campaign to raise $450,000 to preserve and restore the building. In a little over a year of actual fund raising, the BHS has raised over $130,000 towards this cause.
It is anticipated that Seven to Save designation will bring added attention to preserving this important building. The BHS looks forward to giving this 127-year-old landmark new life under their stewardship.
For more information, visit the Bartlett Historical Society website. You can also contact Phil Franklin (BHS secretary) at 603-374-5023 or phil@BartlettHistory.org or Norm Head (BHS president) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-986-6278.