Photo Gallery | Demolition of St. Joseph's convent
PITTSFIELD — Long past its prime, the demolition of the St. Joseph Church convent on Monday was still an emotional sight for Monsignor Michael Sheshanovich.
"It's sad as part of our tradition is gone," said the pastor of the North Street Catholic parish. "It's an emptiness as my heart sank remembering all the nuns who lived there."
The clergy and lay leaders explored several options to reuse the 120-year-old religious residency, but in the end, the redevelopment plans for the three-story brick building either fell through or were cost prohibitive, according to church officials.
Once the rubble is cleared, the property that fronts the parish community center built several years ago will become additional green space that should enhance the various events held on the front lawn.
"This affords us the opportunity to do more outside," Shershanovich said. "We have 15 trees that will be planted there and people will be able to see the parish center [from North Street.]"
Monday's demolition comes six months after the Pittsfield Community Development Board voted 3-2 to reject a recommendation from the Historical Commission to invoke the city's six-month demolition delay ordinance to allow more time for a reuse or restoration plan to be proposed.
The Historical Commission in January voted to seek the delay having found it structurally sound and of historical significance, justifying at least a six-month grace period to entertain new reuse proposals. The convent was built in 1896-97, 27 years after St. Joseph Church opened its doors.
The slim majority of the Community Development Board sided with the parish which had exhausted all avenues of reuse and that the building had deteriorated.
The parish has considered an assisted-living proposal and a plan to merge the convent into a new parish center building, among other proposals over the past 15 or more years.
The housing plan by a nonprofit never materialized, and the parish found that incorporating the brick convent into the new parish center was economically impossible. Maintaining the structure to avoid deterioration and protecting it from vandalism also is well beyond the parish's financial resources, church representatives told the board in March.
The Sister of St. Joseph last occupied the convent in the 1970s and had several temporary reuses early on after the nuns left. In recent years, the building being vacant had become a target for vandals or a place for others to congregate unobserved from North Street.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233