NORTH ADAMS -- St. Francis of Assisi Church has not been sold, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, contrary to rumors that have popped up in the community.
Rumors that the city's oldest Catholic church had sold and is being readied for demolition began circulating this weekend when a crew from King Richard's Liturgical Design and Contracting Services, out of Georgia, arrived and began working inside the building. The crew is removing the church's altar and the marble around it.
"This site has not be sold," Diocesan Spokesman Mark Dupont said Tuesday in an email. "I can say that this property, as with most of our available real estate, has generated consistent interest from potential buyers. As for the removal of items, this is a separate matter, as it would be our obligation to secure items that are sacramental in nature and as such part of the patrimony of the Church."
He declined to comment further on any interested parties, saying that it is the diocese's policy not to discuss the particulars of any available property on the market until it actually sells.
The church, which sits on 1.39 acres at the corner of Union and Eagle streets and was built in 1836, is listed with Colebrook Realtors, out of Springfield, with an asking price of $599,000.
It has been rumored for several years the CVS or another drug store chain is interested in buying the church.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said Tuesday that he wasn't surprised that the diocese was removing the altar and marble from the church.
"It's very typical," he said. "When Notre Dame was closed many years ago, the diocese sent in a crew to salvage the altar, pews and stained-glass windows. I know the stained-glass windows at St. Francis were taken out almost immediately after it was closed."
Dupont has said in previous interviews that the diocese stores the religious items until they can be used at another church or by another diocese.
"When things like this happen, there's always the assumption that the church has been sold and will be demolished," Alcombright said. "We've put processes in place that hopefully will not allow that to happen."
In June, the City Council adopted "The Preservation of Historically Significant Build ings," an ordinance that allows the city to delay for up to 12 months demolition of any building deemed historically significant by the city's Historical Commission.