The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 18, 2000


The old St. Irene steeple finds a new home

It was the morning of July 11, a Tuesday, when Gabor and Bonnie Miskolczy stopped by the Carlisle Post Office on Bedford Road to pick up the mail. As they walked to their car they looked across the way to see a demolition operator taking down the old St. Irene Church next door. Bonnie, an avid photographer, decided to go back home and get her camera to photograph the operation that would eventually take all day. As she watched the demolition operator Charles Zaher move his track-mounted backhoe to and fro, Bonnie came up with the idea of saving the steeple and moving it to the Miskolczy property on Cross Street.

When the Miskolczys approached Zaher about the possibility of saving the steeple, he was less than enthusiastic. "It will be smashed by tonight," replied Zaher, gruffly. Early that evening, as she was driving her daughter to Bedford, Bonnie noticed that the church had been smashed but the steeple had come down intact. She again approached Zaher and said, "Don't you think this is some kind of miracle that the steeple came down unhurt?" This time Zaher turned pensive and after reconsidering her request, said if she could arrange to have it moved, he would let her have it.

That evening, Bonnie swung into action, making calls to truckers and transportation companies trying to make arrangements to have the steeple moved the next morning from Bedford Road to Cross Street. Everywhere she called she got turned down. Finally in desperation, she called Jic Davis on West Street to see if he could help. As it turned out it was Davis who was "the glue that put the deal together."

According to Davis, he reached his friend John Durkin of Onyx Transportation Company, who called Danny Cavelier of Cavelier Crane Service. At 9 a.m. the next day, Durkin met Davis, Zaher, and the Miskolczys at the site where the church had stood. By now Zaher, realizing Bonnie's passion to save the steeple, decided to pitch in and help the crew. He put a harness around the steeple, lifted it, and placed it gently on Durkin's truck. Once the steeple had been transported to Cross Street, Danny Cavelier was there with his crane to remove it and lower it onto a pad that the Miskolczys had in place in their front yard.

A brief history

The St. Irene steeple was built in 1947 as a bell tower addition to a recreation building that had been moved to Carlisle from the Sudbury-Maynard Ammunition Dump. On September 13, 1947, Archbishop Richard J. Cushing of Boston dedicated the first Catholic Church in Carlisle. It was named St. Elizabeth's Mission in honor of Mrs. James Barron's mother who had recently died. The Barrons' orchard on Westford Street had been the site of the first Mass in Carlisle, held in 1946. In 1960, Cushing, now cardinal, rededicated the church as the Parish of St. Irene, serving Catholics in the towns of Carlisle and West Billerica.

Once the Miskolczys had achieved their goal of rescuing the steeple and could inspect it closely, they found that it had been made of recycled wood"in the old Yankee way of doing things," remarked Bonnie. The cross and the ball atop the steeple had been removed for the new church on East Street, but Davis did find a 1982 St. Irene church program tucked away in the steeple as he was cleaning out the wiring and other debris. The Miskolczys are planning to place the steeple near their backyard pond and have contacted the conservation commission office to find out what permits they may need.

Their idea is to put screen doors on the front of the steeple facing the pond. Then they hope to place a table with chairs inside, making it the perfect place to entertain friends in the summertime with a glass of iced tea and some homemade cookies.

Plans for 72 Bedford Road

People are wondering what will happen to the former site of the church at 72 Bedford Road. At the May 1999 Town Meeting, a vote was taken to keep the residential zoning for this 1.7-acre lot. Then in March 2000, the North Middlesex Savings Bank went before the board of health and obtained a four-bedroom septic permit to build a single-family house. At that time, and until the church was demolished, the land was owned by the bank.

On July 11, the day of demolition, the property changed hands, and Theodore Treibeck owned it, "for less than a minute," according to his lawyer Patricia Tambone, before he sold it to Lemonias Development Company of Andover, as recorded in the Northern Middlesex County Registry of Deeds.

According to the plans submitted in March, the footprint of the house is located further back from Bedford Road, behind where the old church building stood. The driveway will enter on the east side of the property. There are wetlands on the east and south sides, and since they cannot build in the buffer zone, the buildable area is limited.

Neighbors are pleased that the property was not spot-zoned for business and expect to see a house built on the site in the future.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito