The Team at the Agora GrandWe believe that life is passion.

Billie-Jayne & Wess Cooke, Owners

Billie grew up in a little town in Maine named Greenville, on the shores of beautiful Moosehead Lake, a 2 1/2 hour drive from Lewiston. She brought Wess up to Maine in 2014 to show him where she grew up, and he fell in love with the state, too. Wess is a Virginia boy, but they made their home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where they met and raised a blended family of five boys together. Now they are thrilled to call Lewiston home, giving Wess the opportunity for a lot of hunting and fishing our great state has to offer.

Prior to becoming the owners of the Agora Grand Event Center and the Inn at the Agora located next door, Billie was an information security project manager. She has a BS from Penn State in Quantitative Business Analysis, an MBA in eBusiness from the University of Phoenix, and is also a PMI certified project manager. She retired from the corporate world in June of 2018 to pursue this new adventure. Wess has been one of the few musicians that can proudly say he has always been fortunate enough to make his living doing what he loved. He has performed all over, primarily focused on the east coast and has been part of the Williamsburg Opry, Carolina Opry, and just ended an 18 year run with the American Music Theatre in Lancaster.

They are joined here by their youngest son, Dominic and Dom’s “ancient” dog Sammy. They all live on the third floor of the Inn at the Agora in the Innkeepers’ Quarters.

History of the Agora Grand

History of the Agora Grand Event Center

In 1886, Monsignor Thomas Wallace, a pastor at the former St. Joseph’s Church, purchased the gorgeous Kelsey Hall at the corner of Bates and Walnut streets, along with an adjacent plot of land, and began construction on a new church to meet the needs of the growing Lewiston Irish population. On June 24, 1887, the cornerstone of the new St. Patrick’s Church was laid by Bishop James Healy, America’s first Catholic Bishop of African descent. Construction on the church and chapel in Neogothic style and architecture continued over the next three years. The church officially opened on Christmas, 1890, and Wallace remained its pastor until his passing in 1906. A guest room at the Inn at the Agora is named in his honor.

In 1895, the house and lot just south of the church were purchased, providing a convent for the Sisters of Notre Dame. In 1957 this lot was developed as a parking lot to meet greater demand. In 1927, a Munich manufacturer built and installed the stained glass windows in St. Patrick’s church, which were removed by the Roman Catholic Church and sold to a Japanese company in 2011. The Portland Diocese closed the church in 2009, its final mass being held in October of that year.

In 2014, Andrew Knight moved to Lewiston and purchased the former St. Patrick’s Church and Rectory. He spent most of the year renovating the former rectory into a boutique hotel, which opened in March, 2015, as the Inn at the Agora. In July, 2015, he began work on renovating and repurposing the church, which opened in May, 2016, as the Agora Grand Event Center, taking the word “agora” from the Greek word for “gathering place.”

Today, this rehabilitated quintessential masterpiece boasts nearly 15,000 square feet of space, soaring 55-foot ceilings upheld by stately columns, several restored 125-year-old stained glass windows, and the creative repurposing of many historic elements, most notably a modern bar built from parts of the pipe organ (which was dismantled by the Catholic Church before sale of the property). At 220 feet to the top of the taller tower, this incredible building has remained Maine’s tallest structure for over a century, as well as one of its stateliest, most awe-inspiring, and best preserved.

Located in the heart of Lewiston, Maine’s second largest metropolitan area, the Agora Grand overlooks historic Kennedy Park where Presidential nominee John Kennedy spoke on November 7, 1960. Just a few blocks from Central Maine Medical Center and less than a mile from Bates College, the Agora Grand Event Center is a convenient locale for weddings, meetings, conferences, corporate retreats, celebrations, parties, private events, and public performances.

Download the free eBook, Dedicated to Beauty and Excellence, Now and Always: The Agora Grand Event Center and the Inn at the Agora, or purchase a hard copy.  This full-color minibook, full of beautiful color photos, chronicles the incredible history of these historic Maine landmarks.

Download eBook >

About Lewiston/Auburn

Lewiston-Auburn is Maine’s second largest metropolitan area. Located equidistant between Portland and Augusta, and just a half hour drive from Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine, L/A is conveniently located to serve the majority of Maine’s population. More than just a gateway to Maine, however, L/A boasts its own burgeoning social, artistic, and culinary scenes to complement thriving industries in healthcare and education. Long regarded as Maine’s underdog, perception has not caught up with reality. Today, Lewiston is the safest city in Maine, which is the safest state in the country, and local development has begun an exponential growth. Full of history and life along the mighty Androscoggin River, Lewiston has something to offer all visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q) Does the Agora Grand have heat and air conditioning?
A) Yes! A new heating and air conditioning system have been installed.

Q) What is the capacity of the Agora Grand?
A) With over 6,000 square feet of meeting space (not including the chapel), the Agora Grand can accommodate up to 350 seated and up to 450 in reception. The on-site chapel can accommodate up to 200 — for larger weddings, both the ceremony and reception can take place in the magnificent Reception Hall. The Luxury Balcony Lounge can accommodate 20-50.

Q) Are there good photography spots for my wedding?
A) Lots! The Reception Hall and chapel are both picturesque. The Inn at the Agora, our little boutique inn just next door, has stunning 19th century woodwork, a beautiful wrap-around front porch, and a cozy courtyard out back. Also, Kennedy Park, just across the street, has recently gotten a facelift with a rebuilt gazebo and is absolutely gorgeous when the trees are in full bloom.

Q) Can I choose my own caterer?
A) We work with several absolutely fabulous caterers who work in a wide range of budgets. By having several preferred caterers, we can ensure that you have a choice in the matter and that you receive the highest level of satisfaction.

Q) How much did you change of the former St. Patrick’s Church?
A) As little as possible. The building, built in 1890, is a stunning architectural achievement, built at a cost of close to $8 million in 2015 dollars. We removed most of the pews to make room for the event space. We made a variety of needed repairs to the roofing and windows, removed overtly religious elements (such as the Stations of the Cross), repainted, added new flooring, installed a caterer’s kitchen, installed new restrooms, installed a new high-efficiency natural gas heating system, installed a fire alarm system, added new LED lighting, and added two bars, and we are currently in the process of creating the luxury balcony lounge. We’ve also tried to reuse and repurpose as many elements as possible. For example, the main bar was built from beautiful, intricate woodwork taken from the former pipe organ (which was disassembled by the Catholic Church prior to sale) and the satellite bar was created by modifying a confessional. Many of the pews have been moved to the outside walls to add bench seating. The remaining elements of the pipe organ (including pipes and cabinetry) have been incorporated into the balcony lounge.