‘Late-Game Effort’ to Save Church Seen as Unlikely to Succeed

St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church, stripped of its windows, doors and other ornaments, awaits demolition. (WHAV News photograph.)

A last-minute attempt to save Haverhill’s former St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church from demolition is likely to fail, says a lawyer for the church.

An effort by Realtor Stephanie Mann to buy the church was raised recently with Mayor James J. Fiorentini and other officials, but church attorney John A. Naroian of Methuen doesn’t see it happening.

“This deal is so far along, I can’t imagine the developer walking away. They have so much in it,” Naroian said of plans by a Danvers-based Domino’s Pizza franchisee. “This particular deal is under agreement and a closing is imminent. We’re hoping the deal will close in December,” Naroian told WHAV.

What was described as a “late-game effort” to save the church was sent to members of the city’s Historic District Commission last Wednesday afternoon by Community Development Division Director Andrew K. Herlihy. He told members Mann is “free to fight this uphill battle by contacting the Realtors involved on both sides.” He said he intentionally omitted the information from an interview with WHAV earlier that day. Historic Commissioner Kerry Fitzgerald told WHAV Friday she supports Mann’s efforts.

“That would be so wonderful. I so hope it happens,” Fitzgerald said. She said final sale of the property may have been held up because of a glitch.

“The archdiocese—whatever they have for the Armenian church—owns the building and they are located in New York. So, in order to sell the building, they have to go through the New York process and the Massachusetts process, and they have skipped the New York process previously. So, they have to go back and go through that again,” she added.

Naroian explained local parish members legally turned the property over to the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, New York, decades ago.

Fitzgerald noted previous debate on whether the church building’s condition was salvageable and previous attempts by others to purchase the building were cost-prohibitive.

“People in the church say it’s not salvageable. I talked to other people who have been in the church, who are architects and builders, that say it is salvageable. There was a lot of interest by other nonprofits who wanted to move there but the price was prohibitive. I understand it was almost a $700,000 price tag plus I don’t know how much to fix it, but certainly close to a million total,” Fitzgerald said.

Attempts to reach David D. Jenks, of Boston Pie, owner of a number of Domino’s locations, were unsuccessful at deadline.

6 thoughts on “‘Late-Game Effort’ to Save Church Seen as Unlikely to Succeed

    • Historical society, there’s a number of them here in the city.
      Fitzgerald gave her input so I figured I’d give mine.
      As I said, if she buys it that would be great, what she does with it that will be her doing.
      So I guess we will sit back and see what it becomes.

  1. Then let her buy it and donate it to the non profit.
    She must’ve been in the minority’s when the church elders voted to sell. The talk of the sale has been an ongoing for quite some time.
    Why the last minute decision to make the purchase? Looks like classic Haverhill politics.
    If she comes up with the money to buy great for her, wondering what her plans will be for the property.
    Yes it’s a shame and a disgrace that buildings of historic significance be torn down but this particular property debate is to much and gone on long enough.

  2. Thank you Stephanie Mann!!
    You are a true heroine if you are allowed to purchase the building and preserve its vast history that has taken place since the Revolutionary War on this “Sacred” Ground on the cornerstone of Main Street.

  3. Enough already!!!
    Another fundraiser for a Haverhill non profit. Let’s start with Fitzgerald (appointed by the mayor) and real estate agent Mann to hold the first car wash.
    What’s done is done.

    • ????Stephanie Mann is not a non profit but an outstanding member of the community, an Armenian who grew up in this church with all members of her family, and is generously offering to Purchase the building with her own funding in order to do what the City cannot. She should be applauded!