Fells Point rectory demolished

Developer plans to put condominiums in place of old St. Stanislaus church building

July 25, 2006|By BRENT JONES | BRENT JONES,SUN REPORTER

The remaining portion of a rectory near an old church in Fells Point was demolished yesterday, a move that brings a developer a step closer to building high-priced condominiums on the property.

The rectory was the first of several buildings slated to be razed as part of a redevelopment project at the site of the old St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church complex at Ann and Aliceanna streets. Opponents of the project say the buildings should be preserved because they are part of the heritage of the neighborhood's Polish community.

The demolition was observed by several people, many of whom live in the neighborhood, throughout the day. Pink and white flowers dotted areas of a chain link fence surrounding the construction site. When the demolition was over, all that was left of the rectory, the home for priests, was a pile of rubble.

"I've been in tears, to be honest with you," said Ellen von Karajan, executive director of the Preservation Society, which is concerned about development in Fells Point and Federal Hill.

The developer, Iron Horse Properties LLC, plans to build three four-story buildings on the site that will house 23 condominiums with prices starting at about $800,000. The firm purchased the buildings from the Franciscan Friars of St. Anthony of Padua Province, who sold the church to Mother Seton Academy, which uses it as part of its tuition-free school for underprivileged students.

The other buildings slated for destruction include a former school and a social hall. The church will remain standing, although its fate is in question.

Last year, members of a grass-roots group that wants to turn the church into a Slavic heritage museum sued the friars for allegedly reneging on a deal to sell the building to the group.

The case is scheduled to go trial in October.

Michael Sarnecki, a leader of the group that is suing the friars, said he monitored the demolition, which began on Friday, to make sure that the church was not touched. Sarnecki said his group originally looked to buy the rectory and other properties in the complex.

Sarnecki's organization formed St. Stanislaus Kostka Church Museum Inc., which he said raised $30,000 to help buy the buildings.

"They [the friars] wouldn't negotiate with us on the rectory," Sarnecki said. "So we mainly stayed with the church."

Karajan, of the Preservation Society, said it was a shame that some take "this attitude toward history."

She said the group garnered more than 1,000 signatures on a petition to save the buildings.

"We even petitioned Rome. But history doesn't matter," she said.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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