LACONIA — The John W. Busiel House, built in 1865 for a mill owner and then used as the rectory for St. Joseph Church, will soon have a third act.
Perhaps a bed and breakfast, says Father Marc Drouin, the current occupant of the downtown white mansion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Other suggestions include an office for a small company, a counseling center or condominiums.
“I’ve had the honor and privilege of living here for 10 years,” said Drouin, standing next to one of many marble fireplaces in the house while providing a tour Tuesday.
“How many people get to say they live in a 145-year-old brick building. It’s comfortable. It’s homey.”
It also has 10-foot tin ceilings, a big staircase and custom woodwork throughout.
The city is purchasing the house and a Catholic school for $1.14 million to get 84 parking spots on the property. It intends to put both properties up for sale.
City Manager Scott Myers signed the purchase agreement after discussing the sale with the City Council in non-public sessions. The deal was done outside of the public eye.
Advocates for public transparency questioned spending taxpayer money without getting taxpayer input.
On Monday night, the City Council unsealed the minutes of those private sessions, but Myers did not provide them by the end of business Tuesday.
What the city did not buy was the adjacent St. Joseph Church, built in 1929 and owned by the Diocese of Manchester, which submitted an application to demolish the house of worship, but never pursued an actual demolition permit.
The diocese has since expressed a desire to save the church, but made sure to keep its options open in the purchase and sale agreement, which states that the demolition application shall remain legally valid.
If it had received the permit, it would have a fixed time to use it or lose it, but since it just has the application, there is no time limit, city Planning Director Dean Trefethen said.
A historic district now takes in the St. Joseph campus. District restrictions make it harder to raze a building, but that doesn’t apply to the church because the demolition application was made just before the district was formed.
Tom Bebbington, spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester, didn’t speak directly on why the diocese is keeping the demolition option open. When it first received the application, there was a local outcry from people who wanted to save the church, including from Andrew Hosmer, then a city councilor and now mayor.
“The parish and the diocese intend to work together to develop a future use for the church building that will be in line with the sacred and proper character of the space and in harmony with the mission of the Church,” Bebbington said.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on the future of the church building until that planning process and the sale of the rest of the property are complete.”
Removal of the demolition option would have been a deal breaker for the diocese, Trefethen said.
“My understanding, was that that provision was put in at the request and insistence of the diocese,” he said. “They weren’t going to go forward if that wasn’t in there.”