Church of St. John the Baptist
The Opening Session is hosted by the Parish of SS John and James at the Church of St. John the Baptist in the heart of Arctic Village. The first French-Canadian immigrants in the area attended services at churches that primarily served the Irish population, such as St. Mary’s in Crompton and SS Peter and Paul in Phenix. About 1872, French-Canadians established a separate parish named in honor of St. John the Baptist, patron saint of the founders of New France (Quebec). Funded by local mill workers, construction of a new church began in 1873, and the building was dedicated in 1880.
By 1930, it was clear that the church was inadequate for a parish of 7500 people, and the building was demolished. In 1938, construction began on the same site under the direction of architect Walter Fontaine and builder Clomodie Savageau. Completed in 1950, the neo-Gothic church is clad in brick and cast-stone and flanked by a buttressed belltower. The façade has a central entry set within a Tudor arch surmounted by a large stained-glass rose window. The parish complex also includes a rectory (1899) and school (1957-58).
In 2003, St. John the Baptist Parish merged with St. James Parish to become the Parish of SS John and James. An ambitious restoration of the church was completed in 2011-12. Proud of their legacy, parish members believe that the church “reflects the history of local mills and their workers, a community of faith, and memories of where we come from and where we are going.”
The conference gets underway with songs by the Pawtuxet Valley Community Chorus and remarks from Father Andrew McNair, West Warwick Town Council President David Gosselin, Jr., Maia Farish of Roger Williams University, and RIHPHC Executive Director Ted Sanderson.