St. Joseph Church could be demolished if sale fails

St. Josephs Church and rectory

St. Joseph's Church and rectory at 30 Church St., along with the Holy Trinity School building, are for sale. If they are not sold within six months, the church building will be demolished rather than be used for "sordid" purposes. (File photo)




LACONIA — The St. André Bessette Parish has received permission from the Diocese of Manchester to put St. Joseph Church, rectory and Holy Trinity School building on the real estate market, as part of a plan to consolidate the parish's properties and programs onto the Sacred Heart Campus. The parish has also received permission from the diocese to purchase the building at 277 Union Ave. to be used as the new home of Holy Trinity School.

St. Joseph Church will be marketed with restrictions on its deed which would prohibit the buyer, or any subsequent owner, from using the property for uses that the diocese considers improper for a former church. If no suitable buyer is found within six months, the plan calls for the church to be razed.

Father Marc Drouin informed parishioners of the plan in a letter dated Jan. 31. In the letter, he states that the plan was developed during a parish meeting in December, and that Bishop Anthony Libasci has recently agreed with recommendations provided by the parish. 

Those recommendations include purchasing the property at 277 Union Ave. – the former TD Bank building – consolidating the parish onto the Sacred Heart campus, and listing the St. Joseph Church campus, which includes the church, rectory and school.

Drouin was not immediately available for comment. In an interview for an article published on Nov. 7, 2016, he said the St. Joseph Church and rectory required at least $500,000 in repairs, and that the parish has been experiencing an annual deficit of $50,000 in recent years.

The parish expects to spend $500,000 to purchase the property at 277 Union Ave. The parish has half of that amount already donated by parishioners, the other half will be loaned to the parish by the diocese, to be repaid with proceeds from the sale of the St. Joseph campus.

Prior to listing the Holy Trinity School building, the parish will ensure that the property at 277 Union Ave. will be a suitable location for the school, both in terms of city zoning as well as structural considerations.

Drouin's letter speaks to the possibility of the St. Joseph Church being razed. In the letter, he quotes Libasci as writing, "It saddens me greatly that there are many examples of former Catholic churches converted to profane but not sordid use, and then later used for purposes inconsistent with the inherent dignity of a former church. We have developed stringent deed restrictions to help reduce the risk of this occurring, which I have distributed to all pastors. It is very difficult to find a suitable buyer willing to accept those restrictions and I understand that the sale of the Saint Joseph campus is essential to the transition to the Sacred Heart campus. Based on consultation with my staff, I would like you to list the Saint Joseph Church property for sale, with the attached deed restrictions. However, if no suitable buyer is found willing to accept all of the deed restrictions within six months of the listing date, then the Saint Joseph Church property must be razed so as to prevent a future use of the property inconsistent with the dignity of a Church."

Drouin then added his own words, "Now let me comment, nobody wants to see Saint Joseph's church razed. However, the sad reality is that former churches have been converted into bars and other places of unacceptable use. Another factor is that the money from the properties is desperately needed and the fear is that the properties will not sell with those deed restrictions, placing a financial burden on the Parish as a whole... Again, neither the Bishop nor I wish to see the destruction of the church, but we really have no choice but to follow this path."

Warren D. Huse of the Laconia Historical and Museum Society, while acknowledging the challenge the parish is facing, said it would be a tremendous loss to the city to see St. Joseph Church go.
He quoted David Ruell’s 1995 book, “The Historic Churches of Belknap County, 1791-1940,” which asserted, “The design of St. Joseph’s does have that quality of boldness and forcefulness often associated with (Ralph Adams) Cram’s work. The massing of the building is almost sculptural. The street facade is a fine composition. The well designed ornament is carefully placed. The result is a powerful church, and excellent example of the 20th century Gothic Revival style at its best.”

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Lakefront dream house

02-02 Pond Hockey bob house


Bryce Turmel, 8, center, celebrates with his brother, Ryan Turmel, 11, right, as Ethan Bickford, 12, left, waves the Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association flag marking the delivery and set-up of the group's bob house on the ice of Meredith Bay. LRYHA will raffle use of the house as a mobile locker room during the New England Pond Hockey Classic Feb. 3-5. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association raffles use of bob house as locker room for Pond Hockey Classic team


LACONIA — The Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association is counting on fellow hockey enthusiasts to help them reach their fundraising goals.
One lucky team competing in this weekend's New England Pond Hockey Classic will get to use a warming hut/locker room on the ice. While in years past, the association has raffled off the use of a trailer for a team to use, this year they decided to build a Laker Bob House.
Raffle tickets are $10 each and will be sold on Friday as registration for the three-day tournament begins.
Lynne Turmel, who serves on the LRYHA board and whose two sons play in the league, said the decision to build a bob house was a result of the efforts of a group of committed parents, sponsors and volunteers.
"We're fortunate to have a lot of businesses who have been willing to step up," Turmel said.
Matt Bickford whose son, Ethan, plays on an association team and who owns and operates Bickford Landscape & Design, volunteered to build the eight by eight-foot bob house that features two large viewing windows, hooks and shelves to hang and store equipment, as well as an outside bar.
Rich Ellis of Tradesmen Builder Corporation was able to secure donated building materials from Bouila-Gorrell Lumber Company and from Blaine Drew's Affordable Metal Roofing.
Nancy Bickford, who also serves on the association's board, said LRYHA is committed not only to helping kids learn to play the fun and exciting sport, but also how to interact with a team, commit to a full season of play and to both win and lose.
"It's all about the kids," she said, as she watched her husband slide the newly constructed bob house off a trailer and onto the ice of Meredith Bay.
Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association has 94 skaters on travel teams, from 14 different communities in the Lakes Region. Their program feeds into at least four area high school teams. An additional 48 mini mites and learn to skate kids are also enrolled.
"We're a small organization but have enjoyed some enormous success," said Turmel.
Some two dozen members of the association's coaching staff will hang up their whistles this weekend and pick up their sticks to compete on various teams during the pond hockey action in Meredith.
Turmel directed special thanks to Scott Crowder, commissioner of New England Pond Hockey Classic, for assisting the association with its fundraising.
"His commitment to youth hockey and the love of the game make this all possible for the Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association," she said.
The association offers four programs: full season travel, split season midgets, mini-mites-instructional and a learn to skate for hockey program as well as a variety of skill development camps.
Tryouts for the 2017-2018 season will be March 20-21 at the Merrill Fay Ice Arena. Any business interested in sponsoring a NRYHA team can contact Lynne Turmel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

02-02 bob house trophy

The team that wins the Pond Hockey tournament gets to immortalize its victory by signing this bench provided by the Lakes Region Youth Hockey League. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Belknap House about to open its doors


LACONIA — Despite encountering some unexpected hurdles, Colleen Garrity, the present of Belknap House, said on Thursday that the cold weather emergency shelter for families with children is scheduled to open on Monday, Feb. 13.

Garrity said that the furnace, which was anticipated to last through the winter, abruptly failed, and has been replaced along with two hot-water heaters, all at an unforeseen cost of some $10,000. But, she added that the kitchen, including the appliances and cabinetry, has been installed, and, through the efforts of many volunteers, much of the interior of the building has been painted. With new plumbing and wiring and the removal of asbestos and lead paint, she said, "We have a very, very safe building."

With a target of $25,000, the second annual fundraising drive collected more than $13,000 and the St. James Episcopal Church-Laconia last Sunday awarded a New Hampshire Episcopal Diocese Mission Resources Grant of $6,000 toward the project.

"It's been good, but we can always use more," Garrity said of the fundraising effort. "We're always fundraising. It's constant."

The shelter will have space to house six families, consisting of as many as 19 individuals. Only families referred by the welfare director of either the city of Laconia or one of the 10 towns in Belknap County will be housed at the shelter, which will be a "dry" facility, allowing no alcohol or drugs. The originating municipality will be responsible any costs or services associated with sheltering the families.

Belknap House will operate as a shelter in the cold weather months from October to May and as a hostel during the remainder of the year. The shelter will operate around the clock — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — from October until May. Garrity said that the annual operating budget for the facility is expected to fall between $110,000 and $120,000. She said that fees from the hostel are projected to contribute some $40,000 towards the operating budget.

Karen Welford of Laconia, who was among the founders of Better Together, will be the executive director with responsibility for overseeing and managing all aspects of the operation of Belknap House as well as for pursuing partnerships with local businesses, governments and civic organizations. Tammy Emery will serve as family support coordinator, responsible for assisting families overcome the challenge of homelessness and place them in transitional or permanent housing. The staff will be complemented with volunteers taking operational responsibilities as well as helping with family activities and children's programs.

Garrity said that while there have been referrals, at least two single women have inquired about finding shelter at Belknap House every week for months. "We expect to be very full very quickly, Garrity said.

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