St. Lawrence Arts Timeline of Significant Events: a national landmark on the National Register of Historic Places
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St. Lawrence Arts Timeline of Significant Events


1854 - The St. Lawrence Congregationalists formed a church on Munjoy Hill, centered at the St. Lawrence Street Chapel several blocks down Congress Street from where the present church sits today.

1897 - In response to a need for a bigger building due to growth of the congregation (over 500 families) and purchasing an organ too large for the St. Lawrence Street Chapel, the St. Lawrence Congregation dedicates a grand new church on Congress Street occupying the entire between Beckett and Munjoy Streets. The site was that of a former ice skating rink and the closest undeveloped parcel to St. Lawrence Street.


1979 - In an attempt to rescue the deteriorating building, the congregation obtains a listing for the St. Lawrence as a national landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.

1986 - As a result of a dwindling congregation due to demographic changes in the neighborhood and the rising maintenance and heating costs, the congregation of a couple dozen dissolves and deconsecrates the building, selling the St. Lawrence to private developers during the real estate boom of the 1980's.

1990 - After several failed attempts to create a use for the St. Lawrence, including creating a cultural center with Japanese partners, the heat is allowed to go out and the structure falls into a severe state of disrepair. The St. Lawrence is listed as a local landmark under the City of Portland's historic preservation ordinances.

1993 - Deirdre Nice and a partner purchase the St. Lawrence Church with the proposal to renew the building as an arts and community center.

1996 - Friends of the St. Lawrence Church, a non-profit corporation, is formed by several neighborhood residents with the mission to save the historic St. Lawrence Church.

1997 - The St. Lawrence Church is listed on the most endangered historic properties list by the Maine State Historic Preservation Commission.

Feb. 1997 - Friends of the St. Lawrence Church receives 501(c)(3) tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.

Sept. 1997 - Friends of the St. Lawrence Church purchases the St. Lawrence Church from Deirdre Nice, who sold the building to the non-profit for what she paid for it.

1997 - 2001 - The St. Lawrence renovation effort develops as grants are obtained, partnerships are formed and progress is made. The effort receives grants from the Unum Foundation ($10,000), Libra Foundation ($15,000, $50,000), Davis Family Foundation ($25,000, $25,000), the State of Maine New Centuries Program ($20,000), over $260,000 from the City of Portland in Federal Community Development Block Grants and thousands of dollars in private donations.

1998 - Significant work begins on the St. Lawrence with the rebuilding of the Northwest corner with help from Youthbuild and replacement of the rotten main stairwell made possible by grants from the Davis Family Foundation and Unum Foundation respectively.

June 1999 - The replacement of the Parish Hall slate and copper roof is completed with City of Portland CDBG funds. The first restored stained glass windows are reinstalled in the lobby entryway.


Jan. 2000 - The St. Lawrence Board of Directors change the name of the building from the St. Lawrence Church to the St. Lawrence Arts Center.

May 2000 - After the closing of the Oak Street Theater, theater principal Acorn Productions and Friends of the St. Lawrence Church announce a 12-month, $200,000 campaign to build a 99 seat theater in the Parish Hall half of the St. Lawrence.

March 2001 - For the first time in over ten years, the St. Lawrence heat goes back on with a donated boiler from Northern Utilities warming a newly poured concrete radiant floor in the lower level of the St. Lawrence.

May 10, 2001 - With the premier opening of Acorn Productions version of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, the Parish Hall Theater of the St. Lawrence Arts & Community Center comes alive only one week behind the schedule announced the previous year and after raising over $320,000 in that time period. The 110-seat theater possesses state-of-the-art theater lights, comfortable arm chairs and full ADA access.

July 1, 2003 - Founding Executive Director William Milliken, who volunteered his professional services since forming the non-profit, steps down in favor of a full time, salaried replacement, completing the transition of the organization from grass roots, volunteer community building project to professionally run theater.