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Former Rectory in North Adams on Demolition List
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
12:36PM / Wednesday, May 04, 2022
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The former St. Francis Rectory on Union Street is going to be razed.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The last vestige of St. Francis' Church, its rectory, is being demolished.
 
Crews were at the long-vacant brick structure on Union Street last week removing windows and other materials but halted until their permits are in place. Building Inspector William Meranti said they were beginning to remove materials in preparation of asbestos abatement but "didn't have all their ducks in a row." He confirmed that they were in the process of applying for a demolition permit.
 
The corner property was purchased by Colvest/North Adams LLC of Springfield in 2018 for $1.3 million from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield. 
 
Historical Commission Chairwoman Justyna Carlson said the commission had been contacted by John Dias of Western Mass Demolition and that commissioners had separately reviewed and affirmed the demolition. The commission has the right to impose a demolition delay on any structure 50 years or older to encourage alternative uses or alterations (concerns about the church being demolished for a CVS prompted the fast-tracking of the ordinance in 2012.) 
 
"Built in 1964, it barely makes the need for our approval (unlike the hotel addition which is not even 50 years young)," she wrote. "The building was poorly secured after the passageway to the church was removed so mold had entered and spread."
 
Carlson said she had contacted the owner last December, acting as a member of the Historical Society, to see if the building could house the history museum that was being forced out of the hotel. She said she had been told then that the owner was deliberating on demolishing the structure. 
 
The rectory is all that's left of St. Francis, which was the oldest Catholic church in the city — and the largest in New England at one time. The church was an imposing structure at the entrance to the downtown for more than 150 years before its demolition in 2016 over concerns about its structural integrity. It had closed in 2008 along with a number of other diocesan churches. 
 
The rectory is far younger, having been built in 1965 as part of a $750,000 building program undertaken by the parish. The original rectory fell victim to the Central Artery project and the convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph at that same location came down shortly afterward. A new convent was constructed for the 35 sisters at St. Joseph's School across the street (now an affordable housing complex) and the rectory raised in its place at an estimated cost of $300,000. 
 
In between, the diocese purchased a two-story home in front of Drury High, at 191 East Main St., in 1958 as an interim rectory. It had been the home of Dr. Joseph Crawford, who introduced the use of X-ray machines to the local medical community. He died in 1940.
 
This property was taken by the city in the 1960s for use as a school administrative office and parking, and later razed. 
 
The rectory had included a garage and connecting structure to the church that were taken down prior to the church's demolition. The building is currently assessed by the city at $519,900.
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