Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Friary

The Friary
As you drive down Pleasant Street heading towards the Luce School, on your right is a stone entrance to a subdivision known as Chapelgate. The subdivision was built in early 1993 and has several handsome nondescript homes designed and built by CanFour Development a local building company that has been headed up by part of the Jenkins Family. The roadway is in the same location as the driveway in the photo featured this week.

I was there the day they tore this stunning building down. Just hours prior I had walked through the grand house, had perused the closets and even saved an art-deco desk from the wreckage. Time had ended for this building and under the precepts of "highest and best use" it was time to transform the acreage into luxury homes. The only remnant of the past are the names on the streets - Chapelgate and Abbey Lane - alluding to the past use of the property.

The building that I remember was the Sacred Heart Friary owned by the Franciscan Fathers and was located at 540 Pleasant Street. Polish Franciscan Fathers used this country estate as a retreat and they tended to large gardens on the grounds. The building was acquired by the Polish Fathers around 1938 and used for many years. The stately estate had a mansion that contained 15 rooms, 5 tile baths, a caretaker’s cottage, and extensive orchard and garden, a three car garage and eight acres of land. Most of what I have learned was from a simple property advertisement that listed the land and buildings for sale for $14,000 in the early 1930’s. As in the photo, the house was well set back on the property and was quite an imposing structure. 

The original property was even larger. As you drive past Chapelgate you will also pass the Knights of Columbus Hall. In 1960, a portion of the land owned by the Franciscan's was sold to the Columbian Associates, Inc. and became the property of the Knights of Columbus where they erected the Council headquarters.

Another example of using land to the greatest and highest use. The property today generates a fair share of tax revenue to the town as the sixteen homes are well manicured, plush, and typical of late 20th century architectural sensibilities that have classic non-intrusive values. The homes themselves are full of modern conveniences - Jacuzzi's, cathedral ceilings, multi-zone heating and central vacuum systems. A far cry from the original estate house.  In time the names of the streets will be the only ghosts that remain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We grew up across the street from the Franciscans. I recall my aunt telling me that in the 1920's a family from NY had this as a summer house. My aunt said as a young teen she was awed by the cars the people drove and the clothes they wore. What really impressed her was that the women not only smoked but used long cigarette holders, which she thought to be quite elegant.
As a child I was quite fortunate to have met many of the Franciscan Fathers. All were quite friendly, and soft spoken who in fact did wear the brown monk habit with the rope belt. We would be sent across the street to buy "spiritual bouquets" so I had been in the building many times over the years.
It is sad that such a beautiful structure and the surrounding property was destoyed.