End of an era for Concord church, and perhaps start of a new neighborhood

  • An interior shot of St. Peter’s church, built in 1956. The Rollins mansion and the carriage house on the property will remain, but the church will be torn down. Courtesy

  • A welcome sign with photographs of the clergy at St. Peter’s as you enter the chuch.

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A stained glass of Jesus Christ in the back of St. Peter’s Church on North State Street.

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The exterior of St. Peter’s Church that is set to be demolished to make way for condos on North State Street. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The Rollins home with the old carriage house in back of the grounds of St. Peter’€™s Church, which is set to be demolished, is shown. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/19/2018 10:32:20 PM

In one week, the Concord Catholic community will witness the former St. Peter’s Church’s last rites.

They’ll gather on May 27 for a final liturgy, their voices echoing among the church’s vaulted ceilings, where countless marriages, baptisms and funerals have played out. As they celebrate their faith, a priest will visit the altar, the baptismal fountain, the confessional booths, and, in turn, remove the blessings that once made them sacred.

It’s a ritual that played out a few years ago across town at the former Sacred Heart church, now the site of 10 high-end condos. And in a way, St. Peter’s faces a similar fate; Sacred Heart developer Jonathan Chorlian is looking to buy the building in late July to create residential housing.

But unlike its sister church – which was recently recognized by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance – the A-frame building faces a bulldozer once the purple ribbon signaling that a Catholic church has been deconsecrated is tied.

“It’s my understanding that the developer intends to raze the church and the community building attached,” said Christ the King Parish business manager Charlie Burr.

The parish, which owns the building and has been looking to sell the St. Peter’s campus since 2013, has had an agreement with Chorlian since May of last year, Burr said. Since it went up for sale, the building has been used sporadically for events and sometimes Masses.

But it costs a “significant” amount of money to maintain the building, and a lack of available pastors has contributed to the parish’s decision to sell the building, Burr said.

He declined to name a sale price, saying details won’t be finalized until the building’s sale. A listing for the property on New England Property Exchange states an $875,000 asking price.

It’s a sad moment for the community, said Father Richard Roberge, who has been the pastor for Christ the King Parish since 2010.

But, “The church building is not their faith,” he said, “it’s where people express their faith. ... Their faith is in Christ the King.”

Chorlian said via email that the development will be a “pocket neighborhood” of modest-sized homes around a green space.

“I think that this redevelopment will be a good neighbor as it will preserve two historic structures, create much more green space, reduce traffic impacts, and create attractive new residences in this primarily residential neighborhood,” he wrote. “I look forward to discussing my plans with the neighbors.”

He did emphasize that the Rollins mansion and carriage house, which are being bundled with the church, will remain intact.

“My plans have always involved the preservation of the mansion and carriage house. They are spectacular buildings, albeit in some disrepair, that are architecturally and historically significant to the city,” he said.

Chorlian said he expects the permitting and approval process for the project will begin soon.

Burr said the diocese generally likes to see the buildings it sells remain as places of worship or otherwise intact. But he could see challenges in trying to convert St. Peter’s into housing that didn’t exist for the Sacred Heart building.

“While it looks like a Gothic church from the early 1900s, it’s actually a steel and concrete structure with depth and height that could be used,” Burr said of Sacred Heart, which was constructed in 1933. “St. Peter’s is sort of an A-frame building with not a lot of height on the sides. It would be difficult to repurpose.”

St. Peter’s was originally a mission to the North End of Concord under the umbrella of the St. John’s Catholic Church, said Cheryl Bourassa, who wrote a chapter on religion in Crosscurrents of Change: Concord in the 20th Century. It was established in 1906 to serve Irish Catholic immigrants who came to Concord to mine the granite used to build some St. Paul’s School buildings.

The church was originally located on Walker Street, where Future is Sight is currently located, Bourassa said. By 1946, it had broken away from St. John, and in 1956 the building on North State Street was built.

In 2011, the St. Peter’s parish, the Sacred Heart parish and the St. John parish merged into one.

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