St Lawrence Arts One of Twenty-three Nonprofits Awarded $ by Maine Community Foundation

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The St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress Street, on Munjoy Hill Was One of the Recipients of the Grant Money. On the Far Right Side of the Photo is a Fenced in Area Which was Once the Site of the 500-Seat Sanctuary – Demolished in 2008.

A  Theater Addition by Prominant Portland Architect David Lloyd Was Approved by the City Back in 2013.

Twenty-three nonprofits in  Greater Portland have been awarded a total of $133,055 in grants by the Maine Community Foundation (MaineCF) through the Rines Thompson Fund according to a press release issued yesterday. One of those recipients is the Friends of the St. Lawrence Church.

The nonprofits are as follows:  Classical Uprising, Cultivating Community, Defend Our Health, Equality Community Center, Friends of the St. Lawrence Church, I’m Your Neighbor Books, Ketcha Outdoors, League of Women Voters of Maine Educational Fund, Mad Horse Theatre Company, Maine College of Art, Maine Historical Society, Maine Pops Concert Band, Mayo Street Arts, My Place Teen Center, Peaks Island Children’s Workshop, Portland Chamber Music Festival, Rippleffect, Safe Families for Children, South Portland HIstorical Society, University of Southern Maine Student Senate, Woodfords Family Service, Yarmouth Historical Society and Youth Led Justice.

The grants varied in amounts awarded from $3,000. to $10,000. with $5,000 appearing to be the most popular amount.  Rippleffect received $10,000. toward the construction of its Outdoor Center.  The Friends of the St. Lawrence Received $5,000. for operating expenses.

Orginally, the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress Street, was a Congregational church organized by neighbors in the Munjoy Hill area.  According to church records, shortly following its construction, minor leaks in the roof were observed, although no steps apparently were taken to correct the situation.  Arthur Jennings, of New York, was the architect for the St. Lawrence as well as for the Norumbega Castle, Camden, which is billed as a “romantic”  hotel to this day.  The St. Lawrence was erected in 1897 and was a center of activity for the area for many years.  However, due to changing demographics on the Hill, the lack of parking and a building that required expensive rennovations, the church dissolved in 1986.  It remained vacant until 1997 when it was purchased by the Friends of St. Lawrence Church.

In 2008, the 500-seat sanctuary with outstanding acoustics, was demolished because it had fallen into such severe disrepair that it was deemed not safe to remain standing. Hugh boulders  that supported the sanctuary that came down by the wrecking ball  were buried in the fenced in space to the right of the parish hall entrance.  It was hoped that some day when that space was rebuilt into a large theatre space, these boulders would be used in that reconstruction effort.

Various iterations of a new theatre were introduced to the public by various architects.  One elaborate iteration in particular was deemed too expensive to pursue.However, in 2013 prominent  Portland architect David Lloyd designed the theater seen in the above right photo.  Although neighbrs such as the Concerned Citizens, led by Ralph Carmona, were opposed to it because of parking issues in the area, the city of Portland approved the plans.  Various fund raising efforts by Diedre Nice, Director of the St. Lawrence, have worked over the years to raise funds to replace the original sanctuary – an effort that continues today.

The popular and professional parish hall Good Theater was founded by Brian P. Allen in 2002 with Steven Underwood.   (207) 835-0895

The Rines Thompson Fund was established in 1999 by the children and grandchildren of Henry P. and Adeline B. Rines to benefit the people of Greater Portland.  The next grant cycle opens September 15.  www.mainecf.org/recentgrants.  The Rines family was involved in television broadcasting in Maine – owning two television stations in the area.

Please visit two posts herein dated February 10, 2014 and May 29, 2013 for more background information on the St. Lawrence Arts Center.