Michael Ryan was the first Irish Catholic to settle in North Adams, and he was the first of many. The population of Irish migrants in North Adams grew in years to follow, increasing even more after the Irish Famine of the 1840s. Religious bigotry ran rampant throughout the United States, and what ultimately became St. Francis of Assisi Church was a place of refuge for many Irish Catholics in the North Adams area.
St. Francis church first began in 1862 after members bought the lot of an old Methodist Church. Previously, Irish Catholics had gathered for worship in an glass factory on Center Street.
Construction of the church itself was initiated in 1867 and progressed for two years until its completion in July 1869. The first pastor was the Rev. Charles Lynch. His successor, the Rev. Charles Burke, oversaw the purchase of the Arnold property on Eagle Street that became the site of the rectory. In the 1880s, a parochial school, St. Joseph's, was established.
After thriving for a century as center of fath for local families, the parish declined in the late 20th century as the smaller population of North Adams had a significant impact. In 1974, St. Joseph's School closed. The downsizing and then closing of Sprague Electric in the 1980s also took a toll.
Despite these setbacks, the parish continued as a center of community activity. Under the leadership of Father Eugene Honan, a year-long celebration in 1988 marked the 125th Anniversary of the parish. Special events were organized throughout the year to commemorate the church, and well-known figures in western Massachusetts attended them, illustrating the fellowship that characterized Father Honan’s tenure.
Ultimately, the church closed its doors in 2008 when mounting repair needs and the shrinking Catholic population in North Adams resulted in a major changes. In 2009, the Catholic churches of North Adams merged into one community, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, with the renamed community centered in what had been St. Anthony of Padua Church on Marshall Street.
In 2016, St. Francis of Assisi Church was found to be structurally unsound and in danger of collapse. As a result, it was torn down that same year, and as of 2019 it was sold to a developer.