PHOTOS: Pingree, Portland’s Irish Community Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day With $3 Million in Funding for Maine Irish Heritage Center
Portland, March 14, 2023
The Maine Irish Heritage Center (MIHC) on Tuesday hosted Maine’s First District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for a tour of their historic building, giving her a first-hand look at how $3 million in Community Project Funding she helped secure will restore, update, and weatherize the historic building. Coming just days before St. Patrick’s Day, Pingree and members of Portland’s Irish community toured the future restoration site, enjoyed performances by Irish singers and dancers, and gathered for celebratory tea and Irish soda bread.
“As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’m incredibly proud to have secured federal funding to preserve the Maine Irish Heritage Center for future generations. This grand building has evolved from Maine’s first Catholic church to an enduring hub of Hibernian culture and home to the largest Irish-American genealogical library north of Boston. For many Irish families, St. Dominic’s Church was the center of their community, celebrating weddings, baptisms, and cultural events, but after more than 200 years, the historic structure needs repairs and updates,” said Pingree. “Today I was grateful for the opportunity to see upclose how the $3 million I fought for will improve the structural integrity of Maine’s Irish Heritage Center, which was originally constructed in 1833 by immigrants from the Emerald Isle. With performances by the Claddagh Mhor Pipe Band, Stillson School of Irish Dance, and Joe Markley, today’s visit showcased the pride so many Mainers have in the Irish-American heritage which is kept alive through the Maine Irish Heritage Center. From the docks of Portland’s iconic working waterfronts to the mills of Bangor and Lewiston and countless communities in between, Irish immigrants helped to build the Maine we know and love today. I couldn’t ask for a better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!”
“The original workmanship that created the building was of the highest quality. The building has weathered nearly 130 years in a cold climate and is still in relatively good shape,” said Bob Kearney, MIHC's Board Chair. “However, it will not last another century in its current condition without significant restoration. We are truly grateful for Congresswoman Pingree’s leadership in helping us reach our goal for completing this critical restoration work and for her support of our vision of what this iconic place can become in consideration of, and to pay honor to, the rich cultural tradition that reflects the Irish experience in Maine.”
Built in 1833, the former St. Dominic’s Church at 33 Gray Street in Portland needs exterior work done to seal leaks that are causing interior damage. The federal funding will support these renovations so the Heritage Center can move onto interior renovations and achieve their ultimate vision for the future of transforming the space into a premier gathering space in the Greater Portland area with a new, modern performance and history exhibition space.
Over the past 20 years, the MIHC has made incredible progress on the building restoration, but there is much more to be done. The organization has completed a master plan for the building and has managed several projects including a $1.2 million renovation, completed in 2008, to repair significant interior damage to the bell tower. More recently, the organization has completed eight projects related to improving the building envelope and its energy efficiency, as well as projects to improve building accessibility.
Pingree is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and a member of the Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus and the Friends of Ireland Caucus.