City officials hope to spark interest in what's known as the Conference Center. Bill Binder photos.

Can New Life Be Found For This Former Church? City Begins Exploring Possibilities


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Phyllis A. Muzeroll

CLAREMONT-Known as both the Unitarian Universalist Church and the Conference Center, the old church building nestled between the fire station and the library, owned by the City, sits empty, unused and deteriorating, despite its historic value.

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At Wednesday nightʼs City Council meeting, the Council once again took up the matter of whether it could be sold and put back on the market as a utilized building.

The matter came up at the Jan. 25 Council meeting and was revisited last week. A number of covenants have been attached to the property, limiting its use, but the City had the authority to remove those, said City Attorney Jane Taylor during the Jan. 25th meeting. Only one, placed on it by former owners, the Albees, is in regards to the Revere Bell in the church steeple, which requires that the bell be maintained as an historical asset of the City and may only be removed from the building for the “purposes of public display and shall not otherwise be sold or transferred outside of the City of Claremont.”

The 1832 Annual Town Meeting authorized the First Universalist Society in Claremont to build “a house for public worship on the Common in the center of the town”; the church belonged to the First Universalist Society, but the land under it belonged to the town. Over time, various actions were taken, and the City took possession of both the church and the land in 1989.

At the Wednesday meeting, the Council passed a resolution removing the covenants that prohibited commercial or other for-profit use, hoping to open up the door to future possible proposals. It currently does not meet ADA requirements, and it has been used for storage. Little in the way of funding has been spent over the years to maintain the building, which sits in the Historic District.

Mayor Charlene Lovett said said she thought lifting the covenants could open up “possible uses. Hopefully it will open up a better life for this building.”   

Councilors supported the idea of doing an RFP to get ideas for what it could be used for; City Manager Ryan McNutt said if it were on the National Historical Registry, that would open up grant funding, and if it wasnʼt, getting it on the list should be undertaken. There has been talk over the years of connecting the library to the church building to give the Fiske more room, but with budgets as bare bones as they are these days, such a plan, if sought, is unlikely to be on any docket soon.

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