St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, Main Street, remains boarded and ready for demolition. (WHAV News photograph.)
Two Haverhill city councilors who were on the losing side of a June vote to slow demolition of a Main Street church are still vying to create a Main Street Historic District.
The renewed effort on Tuesday’s City Council agenda will not save the former St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, said Councilors Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien and Thomas J. Sullivan. However, Sullivan said, it could offer protection for other downtown buildings.
“It’s an opportunity to review what’s left in what could be a district, and to make a determination whether we should create a Main Street Historic District for those remaining buildings.”
Sullivan admitted few buildings were spared during the city’s urban renewal program of the 1960s and 1970s.
“At the end of the day, there’s not much left here in the district.”
Although not facing the wrecking ball any time soon, both Sullivan and Daly O’Brien cited the historic significance of Haverhill City Hall.
“Given that it is the building in which Bob Montana, who attended Haverhill High School back when that was the high school, modeled the Riverdale High of the Archie Comic book series after that building as well as the Thinker—Thinker statue that used to be in front of City Hall.”
O’Brien echoed the sentiment.
“(City Hall is) A beautiful representation of a time when Haverhill was building big buildings.”
Councilor Andy Vargas, who voted against placing restrictions on the sale and demolition of St. Gregory’s, joined Sullivan and O’Brien in placing the item on the agenda. At the time of June’s vote, most councilors said they feared harming parishioners’ efforts to build a new church in Ward Hill. The trio will likely recommend sending their idea to a council subcommittee for further study. O’Brien told WHAV she also hopes to obtain input from representatives of other historic properties.
“We also have to work with the other historical sections of Haverhill to see exactly what we need to put it together.”
No matter what happens, O’Brien said, the review is important.
“If anything else, I hope that we bring to this some passion about saving iconic buildings in Haverhill.”