Mission & History


The mission of the Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center is to celebrate and preserve Franco-American heritage while welcoming the cultures of our neighbors.

We celebrate Franco culture and other cultures by hosting dozens of performances every year ranging from classical music to comedy to modern dance and much more. We preserve Franco heritage by teaching French classes to children (both within the Franco Center and in local schools) and adults alike, by hosting a monthly French language luncheon, by giving tours to students and tourists of our museum of photos and artifacts depicting Franco immigrant culture, by lending out books from our library of French publications, and through our celebration of “La Semaine de la Francophonie” (Francophone Week) every March.


In the 1860s, the first French-speaking Canadian migrants came to Lewiston-Auburn to work in the textile mills & shoe shops. Most arrived at the Grand Trunk Railroad Depot (a small building now home to a restaurant) on Lincoln Street in Lewiston and settled in an area known to this day as “Little Canada.” In 1907, construction of St. Mary’s Church began in the Little Canada neighborhood and was completed in 1927. The parish served its new residents and became an important focal point for the population. Today about 80% of Maine’s Franco population lives within a 50-mile radius of Lewiston-Auburn.

St. Mary’s Church was the third oldest Catholic Church in Lewiston and it hosted its first mass on Christmas Day in 1927.  In 1930, a Boston newspaper published a photo of St. Mary’s and judged it to be the most beautiful Church in New England. Until the day it closed in the year 2000, the church continued to hold masses in both English and French.  An estimated three-quarters of Franco-Americans of this area has been baptized or married in the church, or attended school at L’École St. Marie just down the street.

At one time, St. Mary’s Parish was a thriving and well-attended church. However, with the decline of the industries that encouraged families to populate the neighborhood, the church began to suffer financially. The Catholic Diocese of Portland announced that it would be closing St. Mary’s as of July 1, 2000. Many people in the community, led by former Lewiston mayor Lionel Guay, wanted to preserve this symbol of local Franco-American culture. They formed a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and bought the church from the diocese for one dollar, which in turn saved the diocese nearly a quarter-million dollars in demolition costs. After closing St. Mary’s Church, the church was deconsecrated and the Franco-American Heritage Center was established as a performing arts and cultural facility.

Upcoming Performances

  • Mar

    Mainely Improv

    Heritage Hall

    Mar 3 - Mar 3

    7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

    On the Spot Comedy PhotoWhat do you get when you combine the improvisation style of the television show, “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” with a Maine-based comedy troupe that loves the art of improvisation?

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  • Mar

    6th Annual Maine's Got Talent 2017

    Performance Hall

    Mar 4 - Mar 4

    7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

    MGTlogo_2013Maine’s Got Talent  features 10 performing artists competing for cash prizes. Fifty percent of the vote comes from the audience and the other fifty percent from our celebrity judges. The celebrity Judges this year are Tom Doucette, 2014-16 performer of Maine’s Got Talent, Joe Philippon, Lewiston Police Department and Celeste from WBLM’s Morning Show.

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  • Mar

    Blowin' in the Wind – Pettingill Fundraiser

    Heritage Hall

    Mar 5 - Mar 5

    1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

    Graphic - Denny Breau 3-5-17The music of Bob Dylan, Mamas & Papas, Simon & Garfunkle, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and other popular musicians of yesteryear is coming to the Franco Center in Lewiston.  On Sunday, March 5, Denny Breau presents the “Blowin’ in the Wind” concert

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  • Mar

    Piano Concert with Michael Lewin

    Performance Hall

    Mar 10 - Mar 10

    7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Michael Lewin at PianoThis Steinway Artist launched his concert career following victories in the William Kapell and the Franz Liszt International Piano Competitions.   Also highly respected as a teacher

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  • Mar

    MSO – Midcoast Symphony Orchestra – Pops at the Opera

    Performance Hall

    Mar 18 - Mar 18

    7:30 pm - 10:30 pm

    MSO Returns to the Gendron Franco Center with
    With Guest Conductor: Eric Hewitt
    Pops at the OperaMSO for 2007 Sponsor Sheet
    Strauss, Jr. – Overture to Die Flede maus
    Wagner – “Liebestod” from Triston & Isolde
    Bizet – Carmen Suite No. 2
    Ponchielli – “Dance of the Hours” from La gioconda
    Puccini – “Intermezzo” from Manon Lescaut, Act III
    Tchaikovsky – “Polonaise” from Eugene Onegin, Op. 24
    Verdi – “Prelude” from La Traviata, Act I
    Strauss – “Waltz Sequence” from Der Rosenkavalier

    For Tickets


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