St. Francis of Assisi: Evacuations surprise visitors, residents of North Adams


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Photo Gallery | St. Francis Church Steeple to be demolished

Video | Crews begin to prep the area for the demolition of the structurally unstable steeple of the former St. Francis Church in North Adams on Sunday

Video | Sections of Eagle, North Church and Center Streets were closed Saturday night due to structural deficiency of the St. Francis church steeple.

NORTH ADAMS — Mark and Lisa Zobrisky traveled from Maryland to North Adams this weekend to see their niece graduate from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

But while they were out on the town about midnight Saturday, a message came from the landlord of the apartment they were renting for the weekend at the corner of Eagle and North Church streets.

"We got an email, an Airbnb message, from the landlord saying that they've heard there's a possibility that this area's been blocked off. ... They weren't even sure," Mark said. "We go back and the road's blocked off and there's a sign on the door from the city saying you're not allowed in this building."

The entire building Mark and Lisa were renting, as well as the Village Pizza building across the street, was abruptly evacuated by public safety officials late Saturday night after engineers and city staff deemed the nearby former St. Francis of Assisi Church to be in imminent danger of collapsing.

Mark and Lisa retrieved from their belongings and, luckily, were able to find a room at the Howard Johnson hotel in Williamstown.

Danielle Gismondi, an Eagle Street resident who was not among those evacuated, said she got a call from her landlord on Sunday morning telling her "if you can leave, you should leave."

"Tonight, I'm assuming, we'll probably take him up on staying at his house," Gismondi said.

The news of the impending demolition explains the scene Gismondi saw when she came home on Saturday.

"We saw [North Adams Mayor Dick] Alcombright and a bunch of men outside on the corner of Village [Pizza] as we were driving last night," she said. "We thought, 'That's odd. Why is the mayor standing on the corner?'"

On a normal Saturday night, Village Pizza would be open until 3 a.m., but the doors were locked by 11 p.m. after police came in and forced the restaurant to close. The mayor and city officials were on the scene late Saturday to assess and deal with the situation.

Business was steady early in the night thanks to the MCLA graduation earlier in the day, and employees had expected sales to continue.

It's unclear when the pizza shop will be able to re-open. The owner was out of town for a wedding but was being kept informed of the situation.

"They didn't give us any definite answers," said Terry Joy, an employee.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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