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Capital campaign aims to preserve Lewiston's Gendron Franco Center

The center's 'Save Our Stones' campaign aims to save the historic building, which is the former St. Mary's Church and is nearly 100 years old.

LEWISTON, Maine — The Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston is hoping to fundraise $7 million to repair some of the building's historic granite stones, some of which are being secured by straps.

"One of the blocks fell, which was about 14 feet high, just before a performance, so we had to barricade the area and everything," Michel Lajoie said.

Lajoie is the vice president and one of the center's board members. He said there is an urgent need for an air conditioning system. Right now, the building's main theater venue lacks an air conditioning system, so some shows and events have had to be canceled or postponed during the summer because of how hot the venue gets. 

"Other than fans, we don't have an air conditioning unit, so in the summer, it's quite warm in there, and we can't hold as many activities or performances as we'd like to," Lajoie said.

Lajoie added that the building's granite stones have drifted apart due to seasonal weather changes.

The goal is to save the historic building, which is the former St. Mary's Church and is nearly 100 years old, according to Lajoie. By doing so, the center hopes to help save the French language through its programming and community events.

"If you don't address it now, it'll get worse. If it gets worse, it'll deteriorate, and eventually, it'll fall apart," Lajoie said. 

Previous fundraisers helped pay for the theater floor, which cost $400,000, and cushioned seats, which cost almost $95,000. 

The upcoming work will occur in phases determined by funds and donations received.

The first phase focuses on exterior repairs to the buttresses, gutters, and granite facade. The second phase will focus on repairs to the stained glass windows. The third phase includes an air quality assessment to determine HVAC and air conditioning. Additional interior work will continue in phases.

The Lewiston City Council has voted to give $250,000 toward our capital campaign.

To donate to the Gendron Franco Center's donation page, click here.

Those who wish to learn more can call the Gendron Franco Center at 207-783-1585.

NEWS CENTER Maine's Hannah Yechivi will have more on Tuesday about a new French club that recently started at the Gendron Franco Center in an effort to preserve the language in Lewiston.


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