Reader Request Week 2023 #6: An Update On the Church
Several folks in the request thread have asked for an update on the church, with some additional information about what it takes to renew and refurb an old building like this into something useable. As it happens, today we got another milestone in its refurbishment under our belts, so it’s a fine time to catch people up.
1. The refurbishment of the church has gone well, but it’s gone slowly. There are reasons for that: one, we have seasons here in Ohio, and not a whole lot of stuff, particularly outside stuff, gets done in winter. We were fortunate in that winter was mild enough that we could get some things tended to — we got the house just north of the church torn down in January and cleared away quickly thereafter — but in general weather still drew things out.
Two, we are at the mercy of contractor schedules. Our contractors have generally been very good and we don’t get the feeling any of them have strung us along, but at the same time they have other jobs and things they need to get to, and the nature of our refurb is such that we have to do a lot of things in a sequence. For example, to put up bookshelves in the balcony, where I will have a library, we need to have the painter done with the walls. For the painter to paint, we have to have the plaster done for the parts of the walls that need patching (a non-trivial amount, as it happens). And before we could get the plastering done, we had to cap a chimney and close up a part of the church exterior that was letting in moisture.
Today, the plastering is done (that’s the milestone). Next comes the painting. Then comes the bookshelves. We’ll probably get all of that done (knocks on my now rather substantial amount of wood) mid-summer. Keep in mind we’ve been having refurbishment of one sort or another going on since early 2022. So, yeah. It’s going well! And also, not quickly.
2. Also, as you might expect, all that refurbishment hasn’t exactly been cheap. A new 50-year roof? Not cheap! Replacing a nearly 80-year-old knob-and-tube electrical system with something that’s not likely to burn the whole place down? Not cheap! Redoing a concrete retaining wall that was on the verge of falling apart and toppling over? Not cheap! Tearing out an old church kitchen and replacing appliances from the 60s with modern counterparts? Not cheap! Pulling out decades-old industrial carpet and refinishing the hardwood floor underneath? Not cheap! Completely redoing the balcony area so that it is structurally sound and not easy to tumble right the hell off of? You guessed it, also not cheap!
In addition to the church proper, we bought two additional buildings: the parsonage associated with the church (purchased so we wouldn’t have to have the church land sliced into two separate lots, which would cause all sorts of headaches as we refurbished), and the house directly north of the church, which we bought for the land underneath and tore down because it was in poor repair. That was more money into the kitty.
And on top of that, hey, you know that inflation thing that’s been going on? It’s hit building materials and contracting costs as well. We’re paying objectively more for all the materials and work than we would have if we had gotten the church prior to the pandemic and every bit of economic upheaval that’s happened since. But we didn’t, it wasn’t for sale yet, so here we are, shelling out more.
Be aware, I am not expecting sympathy! One does not purchase a nearly 90-year-old building with the expectation that everything is hunky dory and will require no investment at all. When we first looked at the place, Krissy, whose job it is to evaluate structures, said that the bones of the building were good but everything else needed work, and she wasn’t wrong about any of that.
Also, as I noted elsewhere this week, we’re doing okay financially, and are able to handle these costs without a substantial amount of pain. Yes, we had to drop some other purchasing choices, but they were ones that we were likely to drop anyway for unrelated reasons. And if there’s a silver lining on all of this, it’s that as the church and all the costs associated with it are in the service of creating office and content development space for our business, pretty much all of these expenses are tax deductible.
But still, whooooo. Not cheap! And we still have some very not cheap things to get through. Remember those bookshelves I mentioned? Well, they ain’t gonna be particleboard slats bought from Walmart; they’re going to be done by the same local cabinetmaker who made my office bookshelves. They’re going to be solid and terrific and worth every penny… and a whole lot of pennies it will be.
3. The refurbishment is still ongoing but we’re already using the space for its intended purpose. Krissy’s office is set up and she uses it regularly for her various business needs, and to tend to both Scalzi Enterprises (she’s the CEO) and The Scalzi Family Foundation, which has already begun its philanthropic mission. Right now, I camp out in Krissy’s office when I’m there, but my own office (which will be in the alcove that you can see center right in the above photo) will be set up soon as well. On a day-to-day basis, the church will be our business space.
With that said, and as I have noted before, it would be a shame for a building with so much history in the community to be closed off from the community all the time. So there are plans, through the Scalzi Family Foundation, for community-focused events. How those will be managed and the practical aspects of using the building for them are still things we are working on, but we’re pretty optimistic about making them happen. And when we’re finally at a point when all the renovations are done and we’ve furnished and decorated the place to our liking, we’re looking forward to having an open house for the folks in town so they can come in and see what we’ve done with the place.
4. On that score, one of the things we’ve been very happy about is the support we’ve gotten from the folks in Bradford for our purchase and renovation of the church. This building was a cornerstone of the community for decades; people went to church here, got married here, said goodbye to loved ones here, had chicken noodle dinners and Christmas pageants here. When it went up for sale, it would have been anyone’s guess who would buy it and for what purpose. So when people found out we had bought the church and the parsonage, as I understand it there was a bit of relief. They knew us because we’ve lived here for two decades, our kid went to school with their kids, and we’ve contributed to the daily life of the town. We’re a known quantity, basically.
On our side it’s been nice to have people check in with us about the progress, and tell us stories of their own relationship with the church, and be supportive of what we’re doing. We get that we’re now stewards of a building with a history that extends beyond our ownership, and we appreciate that so far, at least, people here seem happy about that. We’re looking forward to keeping the building part of the community for a long time to come. Not as a church anymore — excepting that it’s official name is now “The Old Church” — but still a place that is good for our town and valued in our community. I’m looking forward to that.
Once we get the painting and bookshelves and furnishing and everything else done, that is. It’s going well! There’s more to do.