The column destroyed in an accident at the front entrance of the Old Central Police Station at 158 Bedford Street will be replaced.
After an initial contradicting report from the Mayor’s Office, the reversal was brought to the attention of the Historical Commission ahead of its Feb. 19 meeting. Fall River Director of Buildings/Facilities Chris Gallagher reported to Historical Commission Chairman Kristen Cantara Oliveira that the city was currently in the process of having a replacement column made at Smithfield, Rhode Island, company Granites of America.
The 6,400-pound column at the front of the historic police station was damaged in a motor vehicle accident in October 2018. The front overhang of the police station is currently being supported by a piece of wood, as the building remains fenced off.
Gallagher said the column could not be repaired because the base and decorative edges were crushed to “dust” in addition to the length being broken into three pieces.
The Preservation Society appeared at the Oct. 26, 2018, Historical Commission meeting to request that the city collect insurance money from the accident to repair or replace the destroyed column to prevent the damage from harming any future redevelopment opportunities.
At the Nov. 20, 2018, Historical Commission meeting, Historical Commission member Maria Connie Soule said that after speaking with Mayor Jasiel Correia’s Chief of Staff, Gen Andrade, the city would collect the insurance money from the accident, but that the column would not be replaced because of plans to demolish the building.
After purchasing the Dr. Isaac Fiske House in September 2018, the Preservation Society’s Board of Directors soon got to work fixing up its first historic property.
Volunteers first focused their efforts on the first floor apartment at the rear of the house, which was vacant at the time of the sale. This unit is actually an addition that was added on to the back of the original house at an unknown date.
In their spare time over the course of weeks, volunteers cleaned and repainted the entire apartment — walls, ceilings, cabinets, doors, and more. Among many other repairs and improvements, the bathroom sink’s faucet was replaced and contractors came in to sand and coat the original hardwood floors.
Unfortunately, one of the original windows in this unit is damaged beyond repair and will need to be replaced in the future.
Some interesting historic features of the unit include: a servants phone, a wooden ironing board built into the wall, and the original hardwood floors, of course!
After all the finishing touches are completed, a new tenant will move in to be a part of the next chapter for this historic house.
The demolition of Immaculate Conception Church on Thomas Street began on Feb. 4, 2019, and only took a few days to complete. Over its course, people paused on the street and sidewalk for one last look or photo or video of the Flint neighborhood icon as it came down piece by piece.
The Diocese of Fall River first signaled intent to demolish the church and it’s accompanying rectory in a letter to the Fall River Historical Commission in June 2018. Local developer Thomas St. Pierre filed the paperwork for the demolition after acquiring the property, triggering the Historical Commission’s six-month demolition delay bylaw.
St. Pierre didn’t respond to the Historical Commission’s requests to appear at a meeting to discuss possible reuse of the buildings and demolition began after the six-month delay’s expiration. Fourteen single-family homes will be built in its place.
The Preservation Society of Fall River released a position statement restating public opposition to the demolition on Feb. 4, 2019.
“No words to describe the sadness that I am feeling right now as I am standing here watching this demolition.”
– Carlos Cesar, Flint Neighborhood Association President
Feb. 4, 2019
Herald News Photos: Scenes from the first day of demolition at Immaculate Conception
Herald News Photos: Here is the church, there goes the steeple
Do you have any photos or videos of Immaculate Conception Church or its demolition? If so, please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can preserve this piece of Fall River history and ensure it’s not forgotten.
Demolition of the Immaculate Conception Church at 15 Thomas Street has
begun and the building standing since 1927 will fall.
In the Feb. 3 Herald News article detailing the property’s transformation into 14 single-family homes, the project’s developer, Thomas St. Pierre, alleged that news of the church’s impending demolition was met with minimal pushback from preservationists.
The Preservation Society of Fall River typically treads lightly on privately owned projects and developments, but the city’s Historical Commission did indeed provide objection to the demolition of the Immaculate Conception Church.
Although neither the Preservation Society or the Historical Commission have the power to stop a demolition, the Commission does review demolition permits and it did initiate its only tool to protect historic buildings – the city’s six-month demolition delay ordinance for significant properties.
Unfortunately, multiple invitations to Mr. St. Pierre for him to appear before the Commission went unanswered, denying neighborhood residents, former church patrons, and any preservationists the opportunity to voice resistance to the demolition.
Despite what many developers say, almost all historical properties can be redeveloped and even old churches can find new uses.
We also believe that if Fall River had an administration that truly supported preservation, greater efforts would be made with developers to encourage and promote historic preservation.
Fall River can do better than this and we should do better than this. If we ever want to be a better, more desirable place to live, then someday we must expect better development from our property owners and greater support from our political leaders.
The Preservation Society of Fall River Board of Directors
We had a great turnout at the opening reception of our “Seven Old Stories of Seven Old Homes” research exhibit last night at the Greater Fall River Art Association!
Countless hours of research by scholar in residence Kenneth Champlin on seven historic properties throughout Fall River were presented to guests (as well as a few surprise exhibit pieces 💀).
The exhibit will be on display at the Greater Fall River Art Association at 80 Belmont Street throughout the month of February.
February Exhibit Hours
Fridays: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturdays & Sundays: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The full research will be available on the Preservation Society of Fall River’s official website after the exhibit.
This project is sponsored in part by Mass Humanities and is a collaboration
with the Greater Fall River Art Association (GFRAA).
A stop on the Underground Railroad, a Skeleton in Armor, a serving of deadly ice cream and more are explored in the Preservation Society of Fall River’s upcoming exhibit “Seven Old Stories of Seven Old Homes.”
Based on research conducted for the Preservation Society by scholar in
residence Kenneth Champlin, the past of seven historic homes from different neighborhoods across Fall River is revealed through simple stories about regular folk that are weaved together with unique local history.
“The historic house project is born of an effort to tell the stories of homes in
every section of Fall River,” Preservation Society President Jim Soule said.
“Some of the homes are readily recognized, some of the stories are oft-told,
but can you match the stories to the homes they are related to?”
The research exhibit will be on display at the Greater Fall River Art
Association at 80 Belmont Street throughout the whole month of February
with an opening reception on Feb. 1 at 6 p.m.
This project is sponsored in part by Mass Humanities and is a collaboration
with the Greater Fall River Art Association (GFRAA).
“Fall River’s historic homes are an important part of our local culture,” said
GFRAA President John Casey. “The Greater Fall River Art Association is proud to work with the Preservation Society, and our house at 80 Belmont Street is open to all.”
The exhibit will include photos and highlighted excerpts. The full research will be available on the Preservation Society’s website at: http://www.psfallriver.org.
The spires of St. Anne’s Church and Shrine are an undeniable icon of Fall River’s landscape.
Without argue, the church is the most architecturally impressive structure in the city. However, with the recent debacle of the Fall River Diocese ending mass on top of years of insufficient building upkeep that all but constitutes as “demolition through neglect,” the future of St. Anne’s Church is now in question.
The demise of its parish and the Diocese’s preordained surrender have left many in the community asking, “How did this happen?”
It’s very easy to blame the Diocese. Not only is Bishop Edgar da Cunha personally responsible for the deficient maintenance of St. Anne’s, his lack of faith in the community obstructs their efforts to save the structure.
But this problem goes deeper than the crisis at St. Anne’s. It begs the question, what are we doing to maintain our heritage and the historic architecture across Fall River?
What of the city’s responsibility to lead by example? What have our city leaders done to guide the way and promote historic preservation? Aside from work on the Bank Street Armory, which was funded largely by the Community Preservation Act and Massachusetts Historical Commission, the city is negligent.
In fact, the most impressive preservation efforts have come from non-profit organizations like the Fall River Historical Society, Fall River Fire Museum, and the Lafayette-Durfee House. Even the efforts of the city’s own all-volunteer Historical Commission and Historic District Commission are largely ignored and maligned by the administration.
Our city leaders should be leading the charge. They should be taking stock of city-owned historical buildings, maintaining them, and protecting these resources. Historic preservation is not a new idea and cities all over the state have embraced it; hiring preservationists and assuring that preservation is at the forefront of their economic development.
Our preservation efforts are still based on volunteers, not supported nor afforded to speak on historical issues that affect the city.
In the past year alone, the city underwent a streetscaping project throughout the Lower Highlands Historic District, but in a post-modern fashion and without the Historical Commission’s input. The city allowed the demolition of one of the nation’s first Thomas Edison Light Stations, located on Hartwell Street, without any objection. And of course, the city encouraged the near total demolition of the King Philip Mill complex without any serious effort to market the property for restoration.
The administration suggests it advertised the King Phillip Mill property locally for three weeks, but it seems the allure of how a potential multi-million dollar restoration project could positively impact the South End neighborhood and the entire city was beyond comprehension, despite a professional feasibility study bought and paid for by the Community Preservation Committee.
If there could be one bright point to the St. Anne’s Crisis, let it be that Fall River, as a community, begins to more cohesively appreciate the value of its history. Not just our big Victorian homes or the iconic shrines, but the very historic fiber rooted in our neighborhoods all over the city.
Our history is never permanent. Each day brings new challenges for the historic properties throughout Fall River and we must actively work to preserve our past so it may last into the future.
Once our recognizable history is lost, we become just like any other place. We might not lose our identity, but it will have changed forever.
The Preservation Society of Fall River
Jim Soule, President
Alexander Silva, Clerk
The Preservation Society of Fall River has acquired its first historic property – the Dr. Isaac Fiske House located at 263 Pine Street.
The Pine Street home was chosen by the Preservation Society because of its documented history as an Underground Railroad site, its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and its location in Fall River’s Lower Highlands National Historic District.
The Preservation Society’s business model for the home continues its current use as a multi-family tenement and does not displace or evict any tenants. The long-term goal for the property is to fully preserve its exterior and highlight its history as part of the Underground Railroad.
“We really hope this is the beginning of the Society leading by example and that this pilot model proves using historical preservation does work,” said Preservation Society President Jim Soule. “We hope it’s just the first of many preservation projects we can use as a catalyst for Fall River’s economic revival.”
The Preservation Society appreciates its support from the Community Preservation Committee for partial financing, Michael Lund/Borden Light Marina’s $5,000 donation earmarked to aid the acquisition, Bristol County Savings Bank VP Commercial Lending Joan Medeiros, and Attorney Jeffrey Medeiros for his pro bono efforts.