St. Margaret Parish History
In 1885 Reverend W. H. Ryan, Pastor of Saint Mary Star of the Sea in Beverly determines that the Catholics of Beverly Farms and Prides Crossing need their own house of worship.
On recommendation of then Turkish Consul, Joseph Iasigi, St. Sylvia Church in Bar Harbor Maine is chosen as the model for the new church. Well-known Boston architect William R. Emerson is engaged to draw up the plans.
In October, 1886, Lawrence Watson, a Beverly Farms contractor, donates land equidistant from the centers of Beverly Farms and Prides Crossing on land called Watson’s Ledge.
July 10: 1887: First Mass is celebrated by Reverend Ryan in church named after his mother. Attendees include many summer residents and their friends, among whom were Mrs. Jack Gardner, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John T. Morse, Esq.
Sunday, October 9, 1887 the church is dedicated by then Archbishop of Boston, Most Reverend John G. Williams.
Construction of the church is of stone up to the window sills and above that wood.
The windows are of cathedral glass, donated by parishioners, and furnished by the F. M. Whipple company of Boston.
The original oak altar, now no longer in service, was donated by the Turkish consul, Joseph Iasigi.
Original oak pews provide seating for 500 persons.
The Rose Window, opposite the altar, has a figure of Saint Cecilia and is a gift of the first pastor, Father Ryan.
The statues of Saint Margaret of Scotland and of Saint Patrick are gifts from parishioners.
In December, 1904, the new pastor, Reverend Francis Curran, determines that, owing to the large increase of the resident population in Beverly Farms and the large influx of summer visitors, the area should be a separate parish and Archbishop Williams consents.
On Sunday, January 8, 1905, Fr. John Downey introduces himself as pastor at the 10:30 Mass at Saint Margaret’s and says the first official Mass in the new parish. First parochial residence is established in the Connolly “Homestead House” on Haskell Street and the first pastor, Reverend John Downey, is appointed.
On October 4, 1905, Reverend Nicholas Walsh is named pastor of Saint Margaret’s and Manchester becomes a separate parish.
In February 1906, then pastor Rverend Nicholas Walsh announces that 32,000 feet of land adjoining the church property has been purchased from the City of Beverly for the construction of a new rectory and in April 1906 Edward Graham of Boston is chosen as architect.
The rectory is built of stone entirely from the site, with the intention that it will have architectural beauty in keeping with the homes found in Beverly Farms. The rectory is completed and opened to the public in September 1907.
The church basement is used as an assembly hall and in 1908 a confessional is installed there for use by both children and adults.
In May 1917, the Cross estate directly adjoining the church property is purchased and the house demolished.
April 1919, the parish purchases 6,200 feet of the so-called “Quarry Lot” from the City of Beverly and the stone boundary wall is built from in front of the rectory to the end of the newly-acquired property.
In 1923, Reverend Matthew Gleason, new pastor, brings two Sisters of Notre Dame to Saint Margaret’s to supervise Sunday School. The confessional from the lower church is moved to the upper church.
The front entrance to the rectory is cut into the wall and steps leading to the veranda are built.
A continuing discussion about replacing the “old church” with one more in keeping with the rectory is quieted when then Father Gleason announces that Saint Margaret Parish will have a school. Two parcels of land adjoining the property, the Page and Shaw properties, which include a building used as a tea house, and the MacNeil House, are remodeled as a convent for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who will staff the school. Construction is begun by Connolly Brothers on April 5, 1929 and completed for the September school opening.
On September 5, 1929, 108 pupils walk into the school under the inscription “For God and Country.” The following year the yard is hot-topped.
In the 1930’s the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto is built.
Following the economic upheaval of the 1930s and the war of the 1940s, enrollment in the school grows.
In 1961, under the direction of the new pastor of Saint Margaret, Reverend John H. Quinlan, a renovation of the church that included remodeling the side church for a new vestry, new pews, a new altar, heating system, lighting fixtures, wall paneling and flooring. The interior of the rectory is refurbished, trees cleared, and the school repainted and repaired.
In September 1961, the new wing to the school is completed to accommodate a growing student population.
Father Quinlan is succeeded as pastor in 1968 by Reverend Walter Doyle, who is succeeded by Reverend Albert Contons in 1973. Fr. Contons, faced with declining enrollment in the school, officially closes it in June 1973.
Rising fuel costs precipitate using the living room of Saint Margaret’s rectory in 1975 as a chapel for daily Mass and the room was gradually being renovated to suit that need.
In 1979, the new pastor, Reverend Francis Mackin, undertakes many renovations, including the painting of the church and the installation of bells in the bellfry, ringing the Angelus three times a day as a call to prayer.
In 1987, Fr. Mackin is succeeded by Reverend Cyril Conroy, who had visited the church in the 1940s, shortly before his ordination. He undertakes a parish renovation that restores the church to its original interior and exterior color and configuration. Also, the Cape Ann Waldorf School begins leasing the former Saint Margaret Parish School.
Fr. Conroy retires in 1997 and is replaced by the Reverend James Fahey. Sr. The church and rectory are restored and refurbished, and the church basement completely renovated. A new terraced garden is installed in the front of the Lourdes and Sacred Heart Grottoes. Fr. Fahey was succeeded by two temporary administrators, first in 2009 by Fr. Edward Keohan followed in 2011 by Fr. David Barnes.
In 2013, St. Margaret’s became a part of the Beverly Catholic Collaborative and Sean Cardinal O’Malley appointed Fr. Mark Mahoney as Pastor of St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary Star of the Sea and St. Margaret. Together the three parishes work together to evangelize Beverly.