IPSWICH — The old church at Turner Hill is ready to be torn down.
Contractors have recently stripped the roof and removed all the doors and windows to prepare for its demolition, which paves the way for the final phase of the private golf and residential community to be known as The Gardens. Proposed plans call for 10 duplex units to take the place of the former church.
While for some the church evokes memories of services once held at the former Catholic shrine and seminary, others see it as a sign of continued revenue growth in town. The high-profile project has been on hold for years as the development group waited for the real estate market to turn around and to further develop a new master plan, said John Gillis, project manager.
“We are getting a lot of interest in the property,” he said. “We do see the market for lifestyle condominiums picking up.” Plans to move forward with the project are expected to be presented at a Planning Board meeting in March, he said.
Turner Hill is one of four well-known former estates in town. The Elizabethan-style mansion was built in 1903 by Charles Goodnough Rice and his wife, Anne. It now serves as a plush function hall and clubhouse for the country club. The club is owned by its members, but homeowners on the property have options for membership.
The Rice family sold the 311-acre property in 1943 to the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, which built a shrine and the church for both outdoor and indoor services, and opened a seminary graduate school. In the 1950s and 1960s, people from near and far would come to pray at the three statues of the Blessed Mother.
Developer Ted Raymond bought the church property in 1997 and built the golf course and started the housing development. After running out of money, he sold the unfinished development to well-known developer Eyk van Otterloo for $15 million in 2007.