Haverhill Historic Commission Vows Main Street Church, Demolished in 2017, Will Not be Forgotten

Demolition of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in 2017. (Photograph by Ted Gray.)

Although it was demolished two and a half years ago, Haverhill’s Historic District Commission hasn’t forgotten about St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church and is taking steps to make sure everyone else remembers too.

The Commission meets tonight to hear an update on its plans to install a permanent marker on the site of the former church. They are being helped by the new property owner, Domino’s Pizza.

Preliminary plans call for a raised image of the former church on a marker. During a recent meeting, member Peter Carbone read aloud the text that will accompany the image.

“This was the site of Haverhill’s mustering ground and worshipping center from the 1600s. The most recent church was designed by the American Institute of Architects’ founder, Alpheus Carey Morse, in 1848. This was the fourth building on this site. It was home to the First Parish Unitarian Church and most recently housed St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church from 1947 to 2016.”

The First Parish Unitarian Church, which dates to Haverhill’s founding in 1640, had several buildings of worship around the city common and downtown beginning in 1645. It left the property in 1926 when it began meeting within the Universalist Church on Kenoza Avenue. The two congregations merged in 1950, forming the Universalist-Unitarian Church of Haverhill. The church once faced the common—now known as GAR Park—and was rotated to face Main Street.

At a meeting during June 2016, councilors voted 6 to 2 against an ordinance which would have granted the Haverhill Historic Commission authority to both delay demolition of properties in the historic district and regulate designs of new buildings. Most councilors argued church parishioners need the money from the sale of the iconic church to complete a new building that has been in the works for 15 years.

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