Historic Highlight

The Former Monastery Now Welcoming Asylum Seekers

Monastery of the Precious Blood in Portland Maine
TEXT BY BRIAN KEVIN
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MAINE REALTY ADVISORS

In January, Portland developer Josh Soley announced plans to turn the former Monastery of the Precious Blood, on Portland’s West End, into a boardinghouse for asylum-seeking immigrants. A brief history of the conceivably converted convent. 

1807

Blue-blooded young lawyer Prentiss Mellen (future U.S. senator and chief justice of the Maine Supreme Court) builds a three-story, Federal-style home on State Street. Its Greek Revival side entrance is likely a later addition.

1848

William Pitt Fessenden (then a former U.S. representative, later a senator and Lincoln’s treasury secretary) buys the stately house.

1934

After using it as a school, the Catholic diocese sells the building to the Sisters Adorers of the Most Precious Blood, a cloistered order. Seven nuns move in, effectively closed off to the outside world beyond interactions in their publicly accessible chapel.

1964

During the monastery’s peak occupancy of 14 sisters, the Second Vatican Council relaxes physical limitations on cloistered orders, permitting the sisters to come and go from their building, although they still live mostly silent lives of prayer.

2018

The diocese announces the last two cloistered nuns in Portland will move to a monastery in New Hampshire. Nearly 1,000 Portlanders turn out for a special farewell mass and reception.

2019

The Catholic Bishop of Portland sells the monastery to Josh Soley for $1.66 million. The developer plans a boardinghouse with 40 single- and double-occupancy rooms sharing bathrooms, kitchens, and living spaces.

2020

Soley says the property will serve asylum seekers. The founder of Freedom House, a transitional-housing nonprofit for those in addiction recovery, leases the building to start remodeling and developing programs for newly arrived immigrants and refugees.


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