When I first conceived of the Hotel Crypt, it was kitsch. Silliness. I figured it would be a great little novelty for October. Why not?
I've now spent a good number of hours in the crypt creating what is now the Hotel Crypt. It's hard to spend time in a crypt without reflecting on life, death, meaning, and legacy.
I spent a lot of time thinking about Father Wallace. All I have is a picture and a little history left behind by the church. He created and loved the building, just as I've come to love it. While I'm not Catholic, Father Wallace and I are, in some sense, kindred spirits: what he built, I aim to give new life. With hard work and luck, the former St. Patrick's Church will open as the Agora Grand Events Center in late 2015, maintaining and preserving his beloved masterpiece.
I then started wondering if I was disrespecting him by creating an attraction from his resting place. I don't think so. For one, his body is no longer there -- he now rests at Mt. Hope Cemetery. For another, St. Patrick's Church was his pride and joy; I think he'd have approved of the Hotel Crypt if he knew that its revenue would help create the Agora Grand and save the building.
The crypt itself is creepy as hell. There is a vent on the east wall that was meant to exhaust the gases emitted by a rotting corpse. The gate looks Medieval and even has a lock -- I assume it's meant to keep vandals out, but was it meant to keep a ghost in? And don't even think about looking underneath the concrete platform that held Wallace's coffin. This is not some Disney recreation. This is the real thing.
I no longer think the Hotel Crypt is a mere Halloween novelty. It's a place to reflect on death. It's a place to face, indulge, and even overcome our fears. It's a place to behold the sanctity of life. It's a place to awaken the fascination and wonder of our beginning and end. The Hotel Crypt is unlike any place in the world. Inside, you can watch a scary movie with your companion and laugh about it later. You can share a deep conversation about your place in the Universe in a room inhabited by a man who expired over 100 years ago. You can face your fears or you can freak yourself out. Maybe you'll encounter a ghost and come to peace with your demons... or maybe you'll run from the crypt, screaming bloody murder.
I don't know how I feel about the Hotel Crypt. But that's probably a good thing.
The crypt is now just an empty room... or is it? I don't believe in ghosts, but every once in a while, while I was working in the crypt, a chill would go up my spine. Maybe it was a noise outside, maybe it was my imagination. I don't know. But the one question I am consistently asked about the crypt is, "Would you spend an evening inside?" My consistent answer: "HELL NO."
-Andrew Knight, June 2015
In 1886, Monsignor Thomas Wallace, a priest at St. Joseph’s Church in Lewiston, Maine, began his life’s greatest work: the construction of St. Patrick’s Church. Partially with his own funds and on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, he purchased the stately Italianate mansion located at One Walnut Street, which became the church’s rectory, and the adjacent one-acre lot. On June 24, 1887, the church’s cornerstone was laid by Bishop James Healy, the first American Roman Catholic Bishop of African descent. Construction on the church and chapel continued for over three years, including construction of a 220-foot principal tower and spire – Maine’s tallest – in true Neogothic style and architecture.
After the church officially opened on Christmas, 1890, Father Wallace remained its first priest until he passed in 1907. He loved the church and chapel so much that he requested to be buried there. A crypt and mortuary chapel were added to the chapel and he remained there peacefully until 2009, when the church closed and his body was exhumed and moved to Mount Hope Cemetery.
In 2014, entrepreneur Andrew Knight renovated the former rectory into a boutique hotel, which opened in September, 2014, as the Inn at the Agora. Plans are underway to convert the former church and chapel into a large events venue, The Agora Grand Event Center, capable of accommodating large conferences, celebrations, and weddings.
Today, except for the addition of furnishings and a few modern comforts, the crypt remains as Monsignor Wallace experienced it for over 100 years.
Lewiston Sun-Journal: "Inn at the Agora Bed and Breakfast opens crypt for guests"
Bangor Daily News: "Would You Rent This Lewiston Crypt for the Evening?"
The Travel Pro: "Maine hotel to open world’s first hotel room … in a crypt"
Travel Pulse: "Want to spend the night in a crypt?"
Travel Daily Media: "Spooky hotel offers stays in a crypt"
Luxury Travel Advisor: "The Inn at the Agora Opens Church Crypt"
Los Angeles Times: "Here's a place where you can rest in peace: Maine's Hotel Crypt"
Travel and Leisure: "Maine Inn is Now Offering a Charming Night in the Crypt"
Realty Today: "World's First Crypt Hotel Room Opens in Maine"
Infinite Leg Room: "Sleep in a Coffin in Maine’s Crypt Hotel"