The demolition of St. Patrick’s Church in Watervliet, NY earlier this year was one of the saddest things I’ve seen in my career as a church architect. One of my earliest renovation projects, St. Francis Chapel, was demolished in 1999 when the old Northway Mall was transformed into a new shopping center. But that was just a space in a mall and, although very nice and still a liturgical space, it was nothing like the beauty of St. Patrick’s Church.
St. Patrick’s was the very first church we attended when my wife and I moved to the Capital District over 30 years ago. We attended Mass there, went to concerts there and loved to show it off to visitors to the area. To watch it be disassembled piece by piece was heart-breaking. Though I intentionally avoided traveling through Watervliet so that I wouldn’t have to see the destruction firsthand, the almost daily updates in the Times Union kept reminding me of the tragedy taking place just a few miles away.
The whole issue of what to do with closed churches is a very difficult one. A conference dedicated to that topic was held earlier this year. I attended the conference and heard many good ideas – all of which were too late for St. Patrick’s. But Rev. Alan Rudnick, a blogger for the Times Union, posted an option I had not heard about. I share that idea with you here for your consideration. It may be too late for St. Patrick’s but perhaps other architecturally significant churches can still be saved.
Should a dying church be repurposed? by Rev. Alan Rudnick