historic churches

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.

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards: Town of Hancock and First Congregational Church of Hancock

The 1820 Hancock Meetinghouse is one of only two in New Hampshire that are jointly owned by a town and a church. It serves as the anchor of the town’s historic village. (Photo courtesy of the Town of Hancock.)

The 1820 Hancock Meetinghouse is one of only two in New Hampshire that are jointly owned by a town and a church. It serves as the anchor of the town’s historic village. (Photo courtesy of the Town of Hancock.)

With partners: David J. Drasba, AIA; MacMillian/DEW; Elizabeth Durfee Hengen, Preservation Consultant; Curtains Without Borders; D.S. Huntington Company; Winn Mountain Restorations, LLC; Stebbins Spectacular Painting Company LLC; The Hancock Improvement Association, Inc.; Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.

The 1820 Hancock Meetinghouse is the anchor of a remarkable historic village nestled within adjacent forested hills overlooking pristine Norway Pond. The Meetinghouse is considered one of New Hampshire’s finest Federal-style churches, as one of several meetinghouses located along a linear path of similarly designed steeples known as the “Templeton Run.”

The Hancock Meetinghouse is also one of only two remaining in New Hampshire under the joint ownership of a town and a church. The Meetinghouse exterior was altered only once in appearance since the building’s construction when, in 1851, the building was moved from its original location and the interior was divided into two floors. Like in many other New Hampshire towns, the first floor served town purposes, while the new second floor was dedicated for church activities. Despite these changes, the steeple remained unaltered and still carries a bell from the foundry of Paul Revere. 

The project to restore the Meetinghouse completed the building’s first major renovation in 100 years. A Historic Structure Report outlined the necessary work, which was funded through a combination of capital reserve funds, LCHIP grants, and private contributions. Work included: structural repairs to the timber frame, mechanical and electrical systems upgrades, installation of a new slate roof, exterior clapboard repair and painting, installation of a seamless LULA lift, restoration of the steeple’s weathervane, balustrades, and finials; restoration of all original windows, installation of proper storms, and the conservation of the painted stage curtain. This work also follows an effort to bury power lines in the village, allowing for much improved visuals of the town’s most prized architectural landmarks.

Thanks to the Meetinghouse restoration, the building continues to play an important role in the activities of Hancock. In addition to weekly religious services, weddings and funerals, Town Meeting returned to the building, and various local organizations and cultural groups are using the building for concerts, lectures, bake sales, Christmas craft fairs, and the annual Old Home Day celebration. It has become the rehearsal and performance home of Music on Norway Pond.  Each season there are close to 70 rehearsals, involving 200 singers and over 1,000 program attendees.

This award salutes Hancock’s high quality foundation-to-weathervane-work fueled by strong community support and a great team. We know you’ll agree when we say the results speak for themselves.