St. Francis of Assisi
Located at the intersection of Eagle and Union Streets, for over 125 years, St. Francis served Catholic parishioners in North Adams and was the oldest Catholic church building in town before being torn down in 2017.
It was Catholic immigrants who first brought Catholicism to North Adams. In the early 1800s several Catholic Irish families settled in North Adams, Massachusetts and were only able to receive mass tri-monthly from Father Edward Cavanaugh. The first mass in this area was held in the home of a Kildare, Ireland native: Michael Ryan. Father Charles Lynch who first came to this community as an assistant in 1860 was later appointed as the parish's priest and around November 1862, bought land on Eagle Street to begin building the church edifice. The first cornerstone was officially laid in the summer of 1867. Father Burke later bought the Arnold Property on Eagle Street for over $20,000. It was decided that this property would be used as a residence for the local pastors.
In 1956 the roof of the church was reaching an extremely dangerous condition and needed immediate attention. The slate needed to be replaced and work needed to be done on the brick and wood. This cost the church around $50,000 at the time. Repairing the roof was only the beginning in the building program for St. Francis. St. Francis began this building program, with the help of donations from parishioners, in 1960 to both expand as well as rebuild and update their properties. This project was delayed for several years until the Sisters of St. Joseph were relocated from their convent so that a new rectory for local priests could be built. Building this new rectory was expected to be around $300,000 at the time.
In addition to this change, in 1961 their plans included tearing down their new property on 93 Eagle Street to make a new parking area. Following the construction and continuous operation of five buildings (the church, the two schools, the rectory, and the convent) St. Francis fell into a debt of $699,000. In the mid- to late-1980s the church was in need of repairing their 12 foot cross placed at the top the 125 foot tower, along with a plan to re-landscape their property after lightning struck the property 30 years prior. With the last exterior work being done in 1914 this plan was put into place with a cost of $14,000 to complete.
In 2007 it was found that much needed repairs for the church would cost more than a million dollars that they did not have. Only a year later, the church closed its door and most churchgoers attended a nearby parish: St. Elizabeth of Hungary, across from MASS MoCA. In 2016, the doors were still closed and the steeple became a serious hazard as it began to collapse. Since the church had been closed for a number of years, the cost of repairs being too high, and due to the safety concerns that urgently needed to be taken care of, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield decided to take immediate steps to demolish the church.
Today the property where a historic church once stood, with many passing through the doors over one hundred twenty five years, remains empty with no definite plans to occupy the space.