Letter: A way to lessen loss of North Adams church

A way to lessen loss of North Adams church

To the editor:

As a relatively new resident of North Adams, I never had the experience of seeing the St. Francis of Assisi Church in service to the community as a house of worship. Its dangerous state of disrepair required it to be demolished. This is not only sad news for the city skyline but also, more importantly, for longtime residents who have vivid memories of the city as it was in the old days.

As I become more familiar with the history of North Adams, it is glaringly apparent the demolition of half of Main Street and the rerouting of Route 2 in the 1970s had a devastating effect on the city. As one lifelong resident put it, "the city had its jugular vein severed."

In a recent conversation I had with first-time visitors, their comment, as they drove into the city from Williamstown, was, "Where's the town?" The remark is quite understandable when all that can be seen are paved parking lots, a strip mall, the backside of Main Street, the MacDonald's — oh, and once halfway over the bridge, MassMoCA. The two positive exceptions to the rather tragic scene were St. Francis church and the newly renovated Colegrove Park Elementary School. Now one is soon to be gone.

The mistakes of the past cannot be undone but, most certainly, lessons can be learned. Currently, there are virtually no green spaces downtown, some trees, but no real open green space. If the city is to lose one of its iconic buildings, I propose that the best use for the property would be as an open green space. A place where perhaps some remembrances from the church could be displayed, a place where people could sit and eat lunch or just enjoy the day. The last thing the city needs is one more drab building with one more paved parking lot. This would only add insult to injury and mimic the mistakes of the urban planning debacle of the 1970s.

I could actually envision the people of North Adams, both newcomers and life long residents, starting a grass roots effort to build a park, do the landscaping, and raise the needed money for such a project. Of course the diocese would have to allow such an effort and its willingness to do so is questionable at present. But, such a project would bring the city together and do a great deal to ameliorate the loss of such a venerable old church.

Jack Savage, North Adams


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