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New England News

Abandoned, Blighted Former Church Is Demolished


   A former church in the middle of one of the most historic neighborhoods in Massachusetts is being demolished following years of attempts to save it.  

   In a neighborhood that cherishes its history, no one in Springfield’s McKnight District was sad to see a work crew start tearing down the former church on the corner of Saint James Ave. and Clarendon Street.  It had been abandoned and blighted for decades.

  The city had patiently worked with the owners of the property for years, but promises to make repairs and improvements never materialized and the structure deteriorated to the point where city inspectors determined it to be a threat to public safety.

  Mayor Domenic Sarno said demolition was the only remaining option.

"Where historic preservation makes sense and the money is there and it makes sense for the neighborhood, my administration always persues that," said Sarno. " This has been a derelict property for many many years."

  Once the lot is cleared, the city will offer it for redevelopment.

  " I am very happy to see this demolition," said  Mike Stevens lives two blocks from the former church.

   He said it has been an eyesore for the entire 32 years he's lived in the neighborhood.

            " As much as I love preserving old buildings, this was one that was not preservable," said Stevens.

   The McKnight District is one of the first planned residential neighborhoods in the United States. It features roughly 900 ornate Victorian Homes.

  The Park Congregational Church was built on the site in the 1800s, but city officials stressed during the demolition announcement Wednesday that very little was left of that historic church after a fire in the 1970s.

  Records show it was partially rebuilt as the Faith Baptist Church and then most recently owned by the All Nations Church of God.

  The cornerstone of the church was removed by the demolition contractor and a time capsule apparently from the Baptist church congregation was discovered.  Both will be turned over to the Springfield Museums

  The city obtained a court order last fall to tear down the building and the church owners did not contest it, according to Tina Quagliato Sullivan, the city’s director of disaster recovery.

  Associated Building Wreckers of Springfield was the successful bidder for the job. The total coast of asbestos and hazardous materials abatement and demolition is $104,000.

  The city is paying for the work from a bond fund.


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