September 15, 2016 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Churches, repurposed.

Profiles of former churches, now being used as community centers, restaurants, art venues, climbing gyms, and more.
posted by terooot (51 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Artw at 11:36 AM on September 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

This is total architecture pr0n for me. I absolutely love churches and have wanted to live in a re purposed one my whole life. I probably never will, but a man can dream.
posted by xingcat at 11:46 AM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

This is very common in the Northeast, where we have many, many, many old churches and declining memberships.

Here in Cumberland County off the top of my head we have a restaurant, an arts center, a buddhist temple, a hindu temple, a teen center, an Irish heritage museum, and some condos. Someone was trying to turn one into office space on the West End but Nimbys nimbied. Meanwhile the Catholic Church sold one to a university, although I think that may be demolished for new construction.
posted by selfnoise at 11:50 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Dunkin' Donuts in New Jersey was kind of funny in a way: think of all the times there must have been coffee klatches there after services on Sundays....

(And I can point you to a small church for sale right now in Fairfax County Va., if you're interested, xingcat: a congregation of Seventh Day Adventists moved out a couple months ago to consolidate with another group, and they're selling their old stomping grounds --- traditional white church with a steeple and everything.)
posted by easily confused at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

There was a church here in Cincinnati that had been repurposed into a single-family home. The choir loft was the master bedroom and the basement kitchen was the kitchen and family room; the nursery playroom was intact because the owners had little kids when they bought it.

It was SO COOL. It came up on the market and we looked at it. The price was amazing but there were holes in the roof and one stairwell (there were THREE!) smelled overwhelmingly of cat urine. It needed a lot more work.

But man oh man. The epic parties we could have had in the sanctuary.
posted by cooker girl at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Want to buy books here!
posted by Mogur at 11:53 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I like to think of myself as someone who'd love to buy a church and repurpose it into a mansion or multiple apartments. In actuality I lack the motivation and handiness to actually get anything done.
posted by explosion at 11:53 AM on September 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I am always envious of all the old community churches here in rural Canada that have been repurposed into gorgeous homes. Then I remember what it must be like to heat those suckers during the winter and I am okay again.
posted by Kitteh at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

My understanding from people that live in repurposed churches is that you get a lot of would-be worshippers knocking on the door who sometimes don't take no for an answer very well. Even so, yeah, I would love to do that as well.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:55 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh snap, the church featured on the front page is from the city where we used to live!
posted by Kitteh at 12:00 PM on September 15, 2016

posted by Artw at 12:07 PM on September 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

Isn't the most fameous xhurch the Guthrie Center (home of the thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat) https://guthriecenter.org/about/
posted by Hasteur at 12:10 PM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

They've got a lot of good Seattle ones, but so far they've missed the elephant in the room, Seattle's Town Hall.


Town Hall is a cultural center and performance hall located on Seattle, Washington, USA's First Hill. Built as the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist, from 1916 to 1922, it was sold by the church to its current owners in 1998 and reopened in 1999.
posted by gurple at 12:15 PM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I remember reading long ago about a former church building that was now a bar, and some people complained that a church was being used a bar.
The owner said something like 'This is not a church. A church is a gathering of people.'
Others say 'A church always looks like a church, no matter what it's used for'.
posted by MtDewd at 12:18 PM on September 15, 2016

Germany's Great Church Sell-Off
posted by bukvich at 12:19 PM on September 15, 2016

I just invented the French equivalent of Xurches : Exglise.
posted by bluefrog at 12:21 PM on September 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

My understanding from people that live in repurposed churches is that you get a lot of would-be worshippers knocking on the door who sometimes don't take no for an answer very well.

A satanic alter at the entrance of your church-home should solve that problem nicely... "Oh yes, please come in and worship, we even have some small animals if you need a sacrifice".
posted by el io at 12:22 PM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ostrich pizza at the Church brewery in Pittsburgh

ooh nice, its listed
posted by infini at 12:28 PM on September 15, 2016

I saw a terrific-looking repurposed Victorian church for sale in the UK ("wow, I could get lots of books in there"), but like Kitteh, I found the thought of heating it pretty terrifying. Cavernous open space with incredibly high ceilings? Yikes!
posted by thomas j wise at 12:32 PM on September 15, 2016

The "Church on York" logotype totally looks like "Church on Dork".
posted by spinda at 12:33 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not listed on the site so I'll bring it up here: next time you're in New Orleans you can eat at Vessel.

(I have not yet made time to dine there though it is but a short walk from my house, so I am not advocating that you should eat there, merely that you can.)
posted by komara at 12:42 PM on September 15, 2016

Remember The Limelight
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:47 PM on September 15, 2016

One of the places, sadly, no longer eligible for this list: the former (Baptist?) church in Santa Barbara that reopened as a now defunct skate shop called "Church of Skatan".
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 12:50 PM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

There's a couple of churches here in Cary that are now Hindu temples. Does that count? Another church went up for sale and my grand idea was to buy it, flip the cross on top of the building upside down, and turn it into a metal club named, "The Church of the Upside Down Cross." Every night that I had a concert going on, it would be called worship night and the cover charge would be a passing of the plates. Would that be a tax free organization? I mean, it seems awfully religious.
posted by NoMich at 12:56 PM on September 15, 2016

I don't know why these make me sad, because I am no longer a Christian and wouldn't be very welcome at many of these if they were still fulfilling their original function. And it's just a building. Churches are the people, not the pews.

But they still make me sad. Like seeing an old book being turned into a drink coaster or hollowed out for a flower arrangement. No matter how dumb or banal the book, that still seems wrong. I'd rather it were taken apart and recycled.

Same for the church. Tearing it down would seem less bad.

It's weird, the little corners of your psyche you stumble on to sometimes.
posted by emjaybee at 12:57 PM on September 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

Nothing warms my old, 3rd generation atheist / architect heart like the sight of religions becoming obsolete and their discarded husks being repurposed into something actually useful.
Now, if we could have a thread on abandoned and repurposed army bases, my day is made.
posted by signal at 1:00 PM on September 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'd love to turn a church a few minutes from here into an arts center, because it looks like this.
posted by lmfsilva at 1:02 PM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

The church my wife and I were married in is now an office building. Still looks exactly like the church on the outside. Haven't been inside.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:08 PM on September 15, 2016

Now this post is the worst because it is the reason I learned that Church of Skatan is no more . . .
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:14 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

My Chicago neighborhood appears to be an xhurch mini-hub. A former church down the street from me just reopened as a circus training school. And a couple of blocks further east from that on the same street is a church that was re-purposed as a single-family home several years ago.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 1:28 PM on September 15, 2016

I think the ultimate dad joke would be to buy one and turn it into a fried chicken restaurant.
posted by Mooski at 1:41 PM on September 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Another church went up for sale and my grand idea was to buy it, flip the cross on top of the building upside down, and turn it into a metal club named, "The Church of the Upside Down Cross."

It is believed that Peter requested this form of crucifixion as he felt he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner that Jesus died. As such, some Catholics use this cross as a symbol of humility and unworthiness in comparison to Jesus.

The pope even wears the Petrine cross around his neck, and it's been used in plenty of devotional architecture. Silly goths think they invented it.
posted by adept256 at 1:42 PM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Down the block from me is Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe HQ, Babeville, formerly the Delaware Asbury Methodist Church, in Buffalo, NY.
posted by Riverine at 1:44 PM on September 15, 2016

I have very mixed feelings about these repurposed churches. Part of me thinks it's great to see these beautiful old buildings converted to imaginative new uses. But then I think of all the long-dead church workers, devoted volunteers like my aunt and great-aunt, who spent their Saturdays cleaning and dusting and polishing so that the church would 'look nice' for Sunday .. all the raffles, the church bazaars and cake sales to raise money for the new lectern, the stained-glass window or the retirement present for the vicar .. and then the long slow decline, the dwindling congregation, the anxious parish meetings trying to balance the books, the last few aging parishioners watching the inevitable end approaching. And for what? so that the building could be sold off and turned into luxury flats or a nightclub called 'Heaven'.

There's something very melancholy about a church that isn't a church any more.
posted by verstegan at 1:46 PM on September 15, 2016 [8 favorites]

What's the alternative? It falls into disrepair and eventually has to be torn down?

It's definitely nice when a beautiful building's history and architecture are appreciated, and it can be appropriated for something like a community center. Certainly preferable. But I'd have to think people would rather the building sees use, any use, than to go empty. An empty church seems like the saddest church.
posted by explosion at 1:51 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I await the first former church to be turned into a currency exchange shop.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 1:53 PM on September 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

The Urban Krag in Dayton's Oregon district is impressive, doubly so given the work required to rehabilitate an abandoned building that size. I think it might have taller climbing walls than the churches highlighted at xhurches (especially since they go below ground level into what was the basement of the church). In the past few weeks a church has gone up for sale near the University of Dayton - hopefully it won't become fraternity or sorority housing, but something a bit more inclusive and usable by the surrounding neighborhoods.
posted by combinatorial explosion at 2:00 PM on September 15, 2016

Is anybody else having trouble with the submission form?
posted by saladin at 2:13 PM on September 15, 2016

South Union Arts! The acoustics were awful, but that cross was incredible.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:25 PM on September 15, 2016

Didn't expect to see the Bike Temple on that list - I had no idea it was once located in an actual church (though it seems to have shared space, not taken over an abandoned church?). While I've never been on one of their "Joy of Sects" rides, I always appreciate the pun. Pasture Ted is a huge asset to the local bike advocacy scene, too.
posted by sibilatorix at 2:54 PM on September 15, 2016

This year in my neighborhood a yoga center moved to the Unitarian Church, the Lutherans moved into the empty yoga center, and a Zen monastery set up in the church where the Lutherans had been.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:08 PM on September 15, 2016

Hey, a friend of mine started this site.
I have spent some time doing weird VR development and spooky alien lightshows at his XHURCH in Portland.
posted by St. Sorryass at 3:11 PM on September 15, 2016

The submission form isn't working for me, either, so they're not allowed to know about The Church nightclub in Denver.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:13 PM on September 15, 2016

Now, if we could have a thread on abandoned and repurposed army bases, my day is made.

I've seen articles about people buying decommissioned missile silos, which is probably more attainable than purchasing an entire base.

I saw a church for sale last year and was very slightly tempted, but it was pretty charmless, just a big rectangle with a lot of work needed to make it structurally sound. This is a fantasy that will have to wait until I am a lot richer or a lot luckier.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:27 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

In Denver, we have a nightclub called The Church Which of course was a church. (On preview, damn you ernielundquist) And signal, you can have your pick of converted airport, Air Force Base, or army hospital. I also hear tell of a few decommissioned missile silos nearby.
posted by evilDoug at 11:49 PM on September 15, 2016

I am unable to imagine a better metaphor for understanding my worldview than the church that became a supercomputing center in Barcelona. Maybe if it had become a natural history museum.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:34 AM on September 16, 2016


posted by leotrotsky at 11:25 AM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had a friend who was a pilot and also rode a very sweet Triumph 650 back in the day who bought a small church in a rural Maryland town to live in.

He took a huge multi-colored parachute and hung it draped to be an artificial ceiling with lighting behind it, for a great atmospheric effect. This was the best party room I've ever seen, with a great sound system.

He parked his Triumph where the altar would have been.

He converted the basement into what amounted to a modest but very nice single story home.

We knew it as 'The Church of the Divine High."
posted by imjustsaying at 4:43 PM on September 16, 2016

I gotta tell you, living in an old church is downright amazing but it's not easy. Almost everything about finding, buying, and living in a church is more complicated… but equally more rewarding. I understand the opinion some have that if a church is deconsecrated it should be torn down, but I disagree. Most churches are holding onto history that should be saved, and I couldn’t imagine a better place to live. We went church hunting last year and I’ll tell what we learned.

Finding one:

How do I find one? If you’re lucky you can find one that’s already been converted but if you want to start from scratch you have to spend a lot of time sifting through commercial real-estate listings to find one. They’re out there for sure, over the course of a year we learned to use loop.net and a dozen other sites to help dial in on properties that fit our criteria. Depending on how big the city is, a church is well out of reach for an individual or couple. Besides, with density issues for many cities condos make a lot of sense even if they may be the worst re-use of the space. (Seriously, all that beautiful space gets chopped up and divided in awkward ways.) Also, if you want to buy one you really should consider moving to the Northeast. We used to have the highest number of church-goers and now we have the least so there are lots of churches in New England who could use new owners to take care of them.

Has it been converted? If you’re looking for one with all the work done you have to really sift through real estate listings. Thankfully there are a bunch of blogs now that feature churches and other unique properties, so often a simple google search will help. In the end we bought a church that had been converted because it was the easiest route but we still call it ‘our starter church.'

Buying one:

No one really walks you though all the complications of buying a church until you’re halfway in it and realize ‘Uh-oh, we didn’t consider…'

Does it have an active congregation? selfnoise were you speaking of Cumberland County, Maine? If so, we had an offer in on the church in South Portland that is now a Buddhist temple. We loved the building and the annex built in the 50’s (which is where we would have lived) but the deal fell through because the congregation really wasn’t ready to move. The trustees of the church knew they needed to sell but I don’t think any of trustees wanted to be known as ‘the generation who sold the church.’ Our offer was met with a counter-offer loaded with conditions, extensions, and the like. In the end it seemed clear they weren’t ready to sell the church as much as they wanted their financial obligation lessened.

Do you know what it will be assessed at? It was never quite clear to me what a tax exemption meant for a church until we looked into buying one. Most churches are assessed at inflated values because no one’s going to ever pay. You can assess a church for a nice, round number and it pulls up the average of the neighborhood it’s in, which I’ve been told is good for the city government. If you’re gonna buy the church you need to get it reassessed ASAP. Most cities we talked to were super-excited to get a new property on the tax rolls, so they were willing to discuss a rapid re-evaluation but that’s no guarantee.

Will a bank finance it? Banks like simple transactions. Explaining the property is/was a church is complicating things. They don’t like that. They’ll get very frustrated with you and ask why you won’t consider a bungalow in a nice neighborhood.

Living in one:

Do people know it’s not a church anymore? We chose a church that had been out of use since the late 70’s, so we haven’t had any visitors who remembered it as a house of worship. Other owners cautioned us to be ready for visitors at all hours, including people who had been married there, buried a loved one, baptized, etc. artw is right, we got a bunch of visitors but mostly because our church was listed as a gym the week Pokémon Go launched. We got a little of attention over it. It was semi-interesting week.

How do I fix this 100 year old [insert item]? A church built int he 1800’s means some of the things used to build the church aren’t made anymore, or they’re made very differently. Lights get wonky in the basement? You gotta hunt for someone who can fix Knob and Tube wiring. Almost every door is gonna be super tall, so you can’t just replace one from stock at Home Depot. And I won’t even get into stained glass window repair…

In the end, every morning we get to wake up in a space bathed in light from stained glass windows in every corner and it feels downright amazing. Every month we learn something new about the history of the building and it tickles my heart to be walking around in a building where so many others have been. Plus, the cats have lots of sunny spots to sleep in so there’s that.
posted by boonerang at 6:12 AM on September 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

« Older like Bruce Springsteen wearing a cape and plastic...   |   Skating, surfing, shredding Sky Brown, youngest... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments