New Bedford-Owned Former Church Property a Dangerous Blight
The former St. Therese's Church on Acushnet Avenue in the North End of New Bedford is a blight on the otherwise neat and trim neighborhood it once served. The property belongs to the City of New Bedford.
St. Therese's Church, once owned by the Fall River Catholic Archdiocese, was purchased by the City of New Bedford Cemetery Board in 2009 during the administration of Mayor Scott Lang at a cost of $2.2 million.
Holly Huntoon, Mayor Jon Mitchell's Interim Public Information Officer, says the buildings and the property "were bought using Cemetery Board revenues (which are generated by burial fees.)"
According to Huntoon, the purchase included "the St. Therese's building, as well as the rectory, and a tract of land stretching all the way to Ashley Boulevard and south to the border with Pine Grove Cemetery that existed at the time."
The church closed decades ago and joined St. Joseph's Church to form a new parish on Kearsarge Street. The St. Therese Catholic School closed years before the church did.
"The intention was to use it as an extension of the City cemetery which abuts the property," Huntoon said.
According to Huntoon, the Cemetery Board discussed the property at its last meeting.
"They are contemplating using the property for additional burial space and/or a columbarium (which is an outside wall type of structure that would house cremated remains)," she said.
"The building s not structurally sound and is likely to be demolished," Huntoon said. "The board is continuing discussions on the re-use plan, so no final decisions have been made."
Ward 1 City Councilor Brad Markey said "It is a shame not to do something with this property."
"As time goes by, the condition worsens, and it is a shame not to put it to good use," he said. "This concern has been voiced over the years, but no plan has come forward with what to do there."
City Council President Linda Morad, who lives in Ward 1, did not respond to a request for comment on the condition of the former church property.
Additional photos of what the former St. Therese's Church looks like today: