Holyoke one step closer to Polish heritage district - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Holyoke one step closer to Polish heritage district

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Holyoke is one step closer to having a Polish heritage district.

Wednesday night the Historic District Commission voted unanimously to recommend the idea to the council, but not before eliminating some buildings from the proposal.

Mater Dolorosa school will not be a part of the proposal.

The Fairfield Avenue Local Historic Commission voted to recommend establishing a Polish Heritage district Wednesday night.

They had a crowded conference room full of people who are a part of the "friends of Mater Dolorosa" looking to save the church that has been a part of Holyoke for more than 100 years.

"We want to commemorate the neighbors and all the businesses and all the people and all the ancestors who went to the church in the area and to preserve it for future generations," said Vic Anop, chairman of Friends of Mater Dolorosa and attorney.

The group has been working to start a Polish heritage district since the church, built by Polish immigrants, closed in 2011.

"It's the heritage. When our parents came in from Poland, they got married, started families, worked in factories. At that time they were putting away 10 percent of their pay to build that church," said Henry Dziok of Holyoke.

Many say keeping the church as part of the district is key, but one former parishioner of Mater Dolorosa says the historic commission can't afford to take care of it.

"They have so many other properties in Holyoke they could involve themselves with that are not as volatile as this one," said Walter Skibel of South Hadley who was a parishioner at the church for 70 years.

The district will encompass 28 residential and commercial properties on the southern part of Lyman Street.

"Despite what the promises are if this is not preserved as part of the district, it will be destroyed," said Joe Twarog, whose father painted the church.

The diocese, which owns the church, however, opposes including it within the district.

The recommendation will now go to city council for a vote. The chairman of the commission said that could take months.

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