Cities, churches tussle over landmark status

Great old buildings
When a church is deemed no longer viable and is ordered to be closed, who gets to decide what happens to the building?

Catholic dioceses in Ohio and Massachusetts are resisting moves by local officials to apply landmark designations to shuttered churches, saying such moves raise issues of religious freedom and expression.

Landmark advocates, meanwhile, say they are preserving the historic character of neighborhoods—a concern that isn’t always shared by bishops preoccupied with shrinking budgets and dwindling numbers of priests.

On December 29, the City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts, voted unanimously to designate Our Lady of Hope Catholic church as part of a historic district. Built in 1925, the Italian Renaissance-style church boasts the tallest bell tower in Springfield.

Then in early January, the city’s His torical Commission recommended that a second church, Immaculate Conception, also be named part of a historic district.

 

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