The recent news that the First United Methodist Church on East Main Street was purchased by the Barbara and Eric Rudd Art Foundation holds great promise for the composition of the city’s downtown, and we hope it’s also a harbinger of things to come for neighboring historical structures.
The Sept. 14 purchase, made for $125,000, comes with local artist and real estate developer Eric Rudd’s plans for preservation, an art installation, and the possibility of making the church home to the North Adams Museum of History and Science, nonprofits and a visitors center.
The plans are exciting ones for this regal building, and we see the potential for the city’s downtown in making the church a bookend to a what could become a privatized Western Gateway Heritage State Park.
However, it really struck a chord when Mrs. Rudd and Mayor Richard Alcombright said they hope this move inspires developers or investors to preserve the downtown’s other historical buildings, with Mr. Alcombright pointing to the nearby St. Francis and Notre Dame churches.
There has already been talk of CVS positioning for a pharmacy on the site of St. Francis, and you can bet that a plan for one of their strip-mall style stores would not incorporate preservation.
We think it would be a tragedy to see the structures of St. Francis razed rather than repurposed, and such a move smacks of the missteps of urban renewal.
What remains to be discovered for St. Francis and the downtown’s other icons is what Mr. Rudd describes as "the right key to preserve these historical landmarks."
Whatever that may be, we hope it has the sense of permanence that Mr. Rudd intends to bring to the Methodist church. Stability is key in these projects, and we are confident that with his track record on the Eclipse and Beaver mills, Mr. Rudd will bring exactly that to the Methodist church development.
May the neighboring churches become part of plans that hold just as much promise -- and soon.