Council Takes 1st Step Toward Main Street Historic District

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill City Hall

Still stinging from their inability to prevent the destruction of the historic church building at the corner of Winter and Main streets, city councilors Tuesday night took the first step toward creating a Main Street Historic District.

While it’s too late to save the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church at 110 Main St., councilors say there is still a chance to protect historically significant buildings in the heart of the city.

“From City Hall to Monument Square, there are eight or nine buildings left that might benefit” from the protection that a historic district designation would offer, said City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan.

The vote triggers the start of a process to create a three- to seven-member study committee to be appointed by the mayor and then approved by the council.

State law requires that three of the members, when possible, include nominees from the local Historical Society, local or regional Board of Realtors, and the American Institute of Architects. It will be the mayor’s responsibility to seek nominees from these organizations.

The committee’s job would be to investigate whether there should be a historic district in the Main Street area, and which streets or buildings it should encompass.

A local historic district is the only means of providing protection for historically significant buildings, according to state law.

Haverhill currently has three historic districts – Bradford Square, Rocks Village and Washington Street.

Several councilors pointed to the church building at the corner of Winter and Franklin streets that formerly housed Joseph’s Bakery as a potential target of development that could be saved if a local historic district were to be formed.

Several councilors suggested the study committee consider expanding the footprint of the district to include several blocks of Winter and Summer streets.

Council Vice President Melinda Barrett noted that Summer Street includes a location that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Haverhill Historic Commission member Kerry Fitzgerald encouraged councilors to approve creating the study committee, saying she hopes it sparks a renewed interest in Haverhill history.

“Haverhill has an exceedingly rich history that people in the state, and even here in the city, don’t know about,” Fitzgerald said.