AVOCA — Crews in Luzerne County are tearing down the old Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church on Main Street in Avoca.
In just one day, demolition crews were able to rip down most of the former Ss. Peter and Paul Church.
Avoca bought this property from the Diocese of Scranton after a consolidation in 2011.
Some former church members believe the borough should have tried harder to save this piece of local history
As demolition crews used an excavator to tear down the roof of the sanctuary, Laura Alexander wiped away tears. She watched the 79-year -old Ss. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Avoca be reduced to rubble.
“I was married here and I also went here, seen a lot of funerals,” said Alexander.
“While some neighbors took pictures from a distance, Maryann Dudzick and her niece walked right up to contractors, hoping to take home a brick from the church.
“It’s terrible,” said Dudzick. “Your heart is just not in it. My dad helped build this church.”
The congregation merged with another church in Avoca and Ss. Peter and Paul closed in 2011.
The borough bought the property on Main Street for $144,000 and had hoped to turn the old church into its new municipal building.
Avoca council vice president John Boone says the borough got $450,000 in state casino money but it wasn’t enough to fix up the old church.
“Many of our council members were parishioners here. A couple of them even have relatives who were founders of the church. It certainly was debated well. It wasn’t taken lightly. With the current situation and the funding, it’s what we had to do,” Boone said.
The Avoca municipal building is more than a century old. Borough council members say it makes sense to build a new building on the church property with more space inside and more room to park outside.
Jeff Romanecz helped write a book on the church’s history and lives next door.
“It’s definitely bittersweet. The house we live in now is the rectory. The house saw this building being built, and now the house sees it being torn down. My great-grandfather was one of the founders of the parish and actually built this building.”
The bell in the steeple, the stained glass windows and the original wood paneling have been saved and borough officials say they plan to include those elements in some way in the new municipal building. They hope to have the new municipal building finished by the end of this year.
Bricks from the church will be made available to former parishioners when the demolition is done.
Main and Plane Streets around the church are still open as this demolition work continues.