Fire destroys historic Claremont convent
CLAREMONT - As the dawn approached early Easter Sunday morning, fire destroyed a building that had been part of the community of New Hampshire's oldest Catholic Church.
The convent of the former St. Mary School, at 16 Central St. in Claremont, was heavily damaged in a fire that broke out shortly before 2:30 a.m. Sunday. The school had been open by St. Mary Church, New Hampshire's first Catholic church, since the mid-19th century.
A second alarm was called in shortly after the fire broke out as flames consumed much of the interior of the structure. fire crews from Cornish, Charlestown and Newport in New Hamshire and Windsor, Springfield and Ascutney in Vermont responded to help fight the fire and cover vacant firehouses.
No injuries were reported in the fire, but the building was extensively damaged.
St. Mary School was the oldest Catholic school in the state when it closed in 2009, A high school closed affiliated with the school closed about 45 years ago. The nuns who taught at St. Mary School, from the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of the Church, an order based in Baltic, Conn., were withdrawn from the school by their order in 1991.
The convent was assessed by the city of Claremont for $1.6 million and had been owned by the Diocese of Manchester since it assumed ownership from St. Mary Church in 1974.
The former St. Mary School buildings are home to New England Classical Academy, a private school for kindergarten through high school. However New England Classical did not use the former convent, which had been vacant for many years.
St. Mary Church is the oldest Catholic church in New Hampshire; its founding dates to 1823.