Congresswoman Pingree Presents $3 Million Check at Maine Irish Heritage Center Celebration


Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) is Surrounded by Members of the Stillson School of Irish Dance This Morning and Several Members of the non-profits Board. She’s in the Back Row, Fourth From the Right.

John Markley, Local Singer and Composer, Performs His “To  St. Dom’s” This Morning.

The Maine Irish  Heritage Center (MIHC) this morning hosted Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) at a presentation of a $3 mllion dollar check to the Board for the restoration, update and weatherization of the historic building on the west end of Portland that Pingree helped secure.

Coming just days before St. Patrick’s Day, Pingree and members of the MIHC board were entertained by the Stillson School of Irish Dancers as well as by John Markley, who wrote and sang a song for the occasion about St. Dom’s

Pingree’s remarks focused largely on the immisgration issue.  She said that her grandfather arrived in the United States from Norway..  He was able to get a job the day he arrived in this country, unlike the immigrants who are arriving daily in Maine and elsewhere in the US..

Pingree recently sponsored a piece of legislation that would reduce the amount of time asylum seekers need to wait to receive working permits,  Many immigrants are living in hotels, shelters and other temporary and expensive housing arrangements in southern Maine.  The ability to support themselves would be of great benefit to themselves as well as remove financial obligations from local municipalities. In that piece of proposed legislation, the Congresswoman renewed her effort to reduce the waiting period from 180 days to 30 days.  “I have my fingers crossed for decreasing the waiting period,” she said.  “We need workers here in Maine.”

Built in 1833, the former St. Dominic’s Church, 33 Gray Street, needs exterior work done to seal leaks that are causing interior damage.  The federal funds will support these renovations so the Heritage Center can move into interior renovations and achieve their ultimate vision for the future of transforming the space into a premier gathering place in the Greater Portland area with a new, modern performance area and history exhibition space.

Over the past 20 years, the MIHC has made incredible progress in the building’s restoration, but there is much more to be done.  The organization has completed a master plan for the building and has managed several projects including a $1.2 million renovation completed in 2008, to repair significant interior damage to the bell tower.  More recently, the oranization has completed eight projects related to improving the building envelope and its energy efficiency, as well as projecs to improve the building’s accessibility. At its hey day, there were 4,000 members of St. Dom’s..

As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am incredibly proud to have secured federal funding to preserve the MIHC for future generations.  This grand building has evolved from Maine’s first Catholic church to an enduring hub of Habernian culture and home to the largest Irish-american genealogical library north of Boston.  For many Irish families, St. Dominic’s Church was the center of their community, celebrating weddings,  baptisms and cultural events.  But after more than 200 years, the historic structure needs repairs and updates,” said Pingree.  “Today I am grateful for the opportunity to see up-close how the $3 million fought for will improve the structure’s integrity ……… which was originally constructed by immigrants from the Emerald Isle.

“Hey, Portland Press Herald, where were you today?” asks the “This was an important piece of local history.  Too bad you don’t agree.”

For background information on the Congresswoman’s renewed effort to reduce the eligibllity period for asylum seekers, please visit posts herein dated October 5, 2022 and March 6, 2023.