SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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March 18, 2013

A legacy in Legos

Salem man creates model of St. Joseph's

SALEM — Although nobody realized it this winter, St. Joseph Church was falling and rising at the same time.

While demolition of the 63-year-old, white brick Catholic church was under way on Lafayette Street, a scale-model re-creation of the church was being constructed on a tabletop in a Salem apartment.

The large and architecturally accurate model, which, believe it or not, is made of Legos, is arguably a work of art and, without doubt, a personal statement about the loss of a church that was built by French-Canadian immigrants, closed by the Archdiocese of Boston and razed this past January to make way for a housing development.

“To destroy a church, it’s very disappointing,” said John Walker, 37, a married father of three who attended St. Joseph as a boy and made his First Communion there. “Once a church is put on a site, it becomes holy ground.”

The holy ground has shifted to Walker’s second-floor apartment near a pizza shop on Boston Street.

Walker, the Frank Lloyd Wright of Legos, decided to take on this project in October after reading a story about plans to take down a church that was attended by several generations of his family.

The idea really clicked when he went over to the closed church and took photographs of the exterior.

“I looked at it — it was all 90-degree angles,” said Walker, a manager at Target who played with Legos as a child but didn’t take up the hobby again until he started raising children of his own. “I thought, ‘Wow, that would be pretty easy to build.’”

The original idea of a small model started growing into something much larger, which now occupies half his den. Just listen to the facts and figures:

Number of Legos: 20,000

Weight: 100 pounds

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