Romanesque church appears to have date with wrecking ball

Developers are expected to make public early next month designs to raze a 88-year-old historic church in Worcester, Mass.

Developers of the proposed Roseland Apartment complex will unveil plans, which include tearing down the former Notre Dame des Canadiens Church to erect a four-story apartment building, on Aug. 2 at a Worcester public meeting.

The church, built in 1929, was closed by the Diocese of Worcester a decade ago. Multi-year efforts to preserve the structure have apparently failed.

Worcester is said to be “in a renaissance of development, dining and culture,” and historic properties like the Notre Dame Church in its downtown have been targeted by developers to make for Worcester’s new future, according to the website

Located in the downtown of what was once a major industrial city, the church served for three-quarters of a century as the epicenter of Worcester’s once-large French-Canadian community.

The Romanesque Revival style structure was the first French-Canadian Roman Catholic parish established in Worcester, and the mother parish to three later French Canadian parishes in the city.

Historically, French Canadians represented Worcester’s largest immigrant population, second only to the Irish.

While some artwork, historical artifacts and stained glass windows have been removed for reuse, many stained-glass windows still remain in the building, according to the group Preservation Worcester.

It should be noted that the church is in desperate need of an overhaul, which would likely be quite expensive, given its size. That said, it’s hard to imagine a replacement that could prove anywhere near the draw for tourism.

Over the past 20 years, many Roman Catholic dioceses in New England and the Rust Belt have had to consolidate and close churches as attendance and parish membership has dropped.

Notre Dame des Canadiens is not listed on the state or national registers of historic places, but is listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System.

The church survived an earlier attempt at demolition. During the dreadful urban renewal efforts that swept much of the US in the 1950s and ‘60s, plans called for Notre Dame des Canadiens to be knocked down. However, strong opposition from residents from across Worcester resulted in the Worcester Redevelopment Authority dropping its plans to acquire and demolish the church.

It doesn’t appear the church will get a second reprieve, however.

(Top: Image of Notre Dame des Canadiens church, Worcester, Mass.)

14 thoughts on “Romanesque church appears to have date with wrecking ball

  1. Had a look on Google. An impressive building. Surely it could be repurposed for some other function? An artistic or theatrical space? Absolute shame to destroy an obvious local landmark.

    • Yes, I agree. I’ve seen some images of the inside, though. It’s in need of major reconstruction. I have a feeling that unless a major deep-pockets donor stood up, there’s no way a refurbishing could be cost-effective. Unfortunately. The sad thing is, so many cities look so much alike today and there’s so little that really differentiates them. Here’s something unique and it’s going to be replaced by apartments.

  2. …..a renaissance of development, dining and culture……
    Development…clearly: dining…goodness only knows…but culture? What culture is involved in destroying this part of local history!

    • Doublespeak at its best. Culture involves whatever is best for the bank accounts of local movers and shakers, apparently. Towns like Worcester aren’t building churches like this anymore; once it’s gone there won’t be another. But I’m sure the tourists and locals alike will be just as thrilled to tour the new apartment complex.

  3. Come on folks…Worcester’s (uh hum) beauty will rise above an amazing architectural and historical structure of worship.

  4. For sentimental value, it’s hard to accept a destruction of any old structure as part of history. It’s okay to start fresh from the ground up and be utilize a much needed space.

    • I’m always torn by these types of decisions. Such structures won’t ever be replicated, while upper end apartments can be placed any number of places. However, I also realize there is a cost associated with refurbishing existing structures, and someone has to fork over the cash.

  5. America always needs more soul-killing sterile architecture. Were we (Americans) always like this? Maybe we weren’t. I look at older examples of post offices, firehouses/fire stations, banks, churches, court houses, libraries, etc. and they are lovely. Some are awe inspiring and others have simple charm but all are pleasing to look at. Newer stuff – not so much. Perhaps it is just my personal taste that makes me think that our cry is for ugly and even uglier.

    • I see the same thing. I think much of the craftsmanship involved with older brickwork is a lost art. It’s also expensive and time-consuming. However, many of the buildings going up today have no character. One of the things I enjoy is walking in older towns and looking at brick structures, no matter how mundane, and checking the brickwork over the windows, doorways and around corners. The individuals who built these structures were artisans.

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