St. Joseph's Convent, The Motherhouse

Photo by Todd Caverly

Photo by Todd Caverly

605 Stevens Avenue, Portland

The Issue

With a dwindling number of Sisters of Mercy living in the large Motherhouse at 605 Stevens Avenue, the sisters decided to close their Motherhouse in 2005 and sell the 18.98 acre property on which it stands. The Motherhouse, once home to scores of nuns, has been vacant for years except for minimal use as administrative offices or use of the chapel by the McAuley students and staff. Since 1865 the Sisters of Mercy have created a long legacy of compassion and community service that remains in their affiliations at Mercy Hospital, Saint Joseph's College, and Catherine McAuley High School.

Our Position

As part of a larger redevelopment of the site into a senior living community, a developer proposes to rehabilitate the Motherhouse into senior housing. As a former convent, the structure has wide hallways, common areas, grand stairways and the stunning three story chapel complete with stained glass windows, altar, and a grand organ.  The building will be converted into 88 affordable and market rate senior apartments and the common areas will be preserved to serve future phases of the redevelopment. The project will use Low Income Housing and Historic Preservation Tax Credits. All design and construction work and materials will conform to the Department of the Interior standards for rehabilitation and preservation under the Historic Tax Credit review process.


Although the project has received all its planning approvals, the project is on hold. An appeal to the finding by Maine Superior Court Justice Warren that the rezoning of the parcel by the City of Portland was consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan was filed by neighborhood residents. That appeal will be heard in the next two to four months. Landmarks supports the rehabilitation of the Motherhouse into senior housing as it provides a compatible reuse of the building, much needed housing, and the work will be undertaken in a manner that meets the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for Historic Preservation in order to receive historic tax credits. The proposed new construction is set back from the Motherhouse and is a compatible use. The new construction will help finance the rehabilitation project and is integral to a successful reuse of the historic building. 


Quick Links

What You Can Do

  • Join our mailing list to stay informed about advocacy, educational programs, and upcoming events.
  • Support the advocacy efforts of Greater Portland Landmarks.