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Our History

St. Francis de Sales School served as a grade school, junior high and high school since the laying of its cornerstone in 1931. Alumni recall dances, basketball games, and friendly rivalries that made it a hub of activity in a bustling city.


When the school closed in the mid-1990s, thanks to creative vision of Fr. Fred Daley, Sr. Elizabeth Giarusso CSJ, and parishioners at St. Francis Church, the building began a new life as an incubator for nonprofits in need of affordable space to grow their missions.

When St. Francis de Sales Parish closed in 2006, Historic Old St. John's Church became successor. On January 7th, 2009 the DeSales Center, a holding company of Thea Bowman House, assumed ownership of the building in hopes of continuing the vibrant ministry in the same spirit as those who preceded them. 

The center has been an incubator and home to many emerging nonprofit organizations over the years. These include Habitat for Humanity, Kids Against Pollution, MAMI Medical Interpreters, The Family Place (also known as the Kniffen Center), the Planet Utica TV Station, and the Mohawk Valley Center for Refugees. Most recently, the Mohawk Valley Latino Association has announced their move to 28 Scott Street to accommodate their growing needs.

The DeSales Center is located in one of Utica's Scenic and Historic Districts.
The designated districts encompass structures that are more than portraits of a bygone era. An increasing number are being recognized and utilized as sources of community pride and catalysts for revitalization. 
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