Monday, May 9, 2016

The Church on Mulberry Street Moves to Demolition Row

Monday, May 9, 2016
Loretta reports:

Those driving on I-290 through Worcester, MA are familiar with what my husband calls “Our Lady of the Highway.” In the city’s 1960s grim era of “urban renewal,” this new highway cut through and leveled old, stable neighborhoods. Among other consequences, Our Lady of Mount Carmel church on Mulberry Street, whose front faces the highway, has been getting a daily dose of shake, rattle, and roll (tiny, repeated earthquakes, in other words) since the highway was completed.

Now it’s closed and awaiting the wrecking ball.

The church is familiar to me, not through religion, but because of the area in which I grew up and the friends of my youth. Built by Italian immigrants & their descendants (who paid cash) in the 1920s, it’s the heart of one of Worcester’s many ethnic neighborhoods. It’s also been the starting point of an annual festival I remember fondly. During my junior high school years (preteen-early teens), the church’s recreation center was one of the few places where my parents would allow me to go dancing.

If I remember Mount Carmel fondly, I can imagine the parishioners’ feelings about the church their parents and grandparents built, and wasn’t at all surprised when a passionate debate broke out about the demolition decision.

Is the (steel) structure sound or isn’t it? Is the crumbling façade the only problem? Should we blame its condition on the highway or on some poor maintenance decisions? Ought the parishioners to have spoken up or ponied up before now? And so on. You can get a glimpse of the issues here (also a great view of the church from the highway) and here and here.

Everybody, in short, has something to say, and the newspapers don’t even begin to cover the controversy details/accusations/counter-accusations.

Meanwhile, continuing his campaign of documenting the city’s historic architecture, mio marito (that’s Italian for my husband) turned up at the last Mass and took some pictures. OK, like a thousand.

Crumbling or not, Mount Carmel is, to my eyes, one of the prettier churches in the city, at the head of one of Worcester's most vibrant areas—although, until I looked at his photos, I didn’t realize those souls at the bottom of the pediment were roasting in the flames of Hell!

All images © 2016 Walter M. Henritze III

Clicking on the image will enlarge it. 


rachely said...

Oh no! Not My Lady of Mountains of Caramel! I grew up in Worcester--drove past this twice a day every day from home to WA and back. Never stopped craving caramel.

rachely said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G. Thomas Fitzpatrick said...

It is horribly sad to see this church go. I used to see it weekly commuting from Boston to Hartford via Worcester. I hate to see any Catholic Church that looks like a church go, since there have been so many protestantized barns built as Catholic Churches since the 1950s.

QNPoohBear said...

What a shame that such an architectural gem is to be torn down. I'll have to ask my dad if he is familiar with this church. I have probably seen it a million times from the highway.

Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket