Article by Melissa McKeon
This site was once the first home of Notre Dame des Canadiens, the mother church of the French Canadian immigrant population of Worcester. A few years after a fire in 1908 destroyed the church, 50 Franklin St. became the site of what was once considered the most luxurious hotel in the city, the center of all social life.
The 10-story building, built at a cost of more than $1 million (nearly $30 million today) as the Bancroft Hotel, was in the classic Beaux Arts style, and the facade remains hardly altered today.
Its grandeur was not just vested in its style. The size, as well, was daunting: 225 hotel rooms, planned for expansion. The hotel must have had little trouble filling those rooms, for it was expanded to the rear, along Portland Street, in 1925. In what might be a tale of the temporal compared to the spiritual, the Bancroft Building has survived changes of fortune and has been transformed into residential use on its upper floors while commercial use on the ground floor has gone on with little interruption.
Notre Dame des Canadiens, however, has not fared as well. The new church, built just across the common in 1929, lasted only until 2007 as a congregation, and the building now faces demolition. Efforts to preserve it and its reminders of an immigrant past have not been successful. Commercial use of the property as part of the City Square II redevelopment will dominate that corner of Worcester Common, and the second Notre Dame church will likely grace this column someday.