An Update From the Old Church, August 31, 2023

For the longest time it seemed impossible we would actually get to this point, but now we’re actually here: All the major renovations we were making to the church are now complete. The very last thing to have done were the bookshelves in the balcony, which span the walls on both wings; we had a local cabinetmaker do them and they are terrific. Here’s a panorama of the bookshelves on the south wing of the balcony:

Those bookshelves are being filled up little by little, since every time we visit the church we bring a box of books from the basement. It will take a little bit of time with that process, but at this point, now that every major renovation thing is done, we’re not in a huge rush.

The renovations were not only to the church; you may recall that we bought the house immediately north of the church, which was in a state of disrepair, brought it down and cleared out the debris. We’ve had some landscaping done in the front to make it look nice from the street, and behind the new firebushes and crabapple trees are what we’re currently calling the “north lawn,” and then a gravel parking lot in the back because the church previously did not have off-street parking. We have plans for the lawn portion but we have to wait a bit; apparently when you take down a house and scoop out the foundations it takes about a year for everything to settle out. Again, we can wait.

Once the renovations were officially done, we had a cleaning crew come in and remove nearly two years of renovation dust, and we took away any remaining detritus from the rebuild. What comes next is furnishing; specifically, my office (Krissy’s is already set up) and the balconies. The plan at the moment is to get it comfortable and cozy, but not, I think, to go all out and try to decorate every nook and cranny right now; we’re presumably going to have years to bring in art and bits and bobs. It’ll be enough to get it to a place where we’re ready to welcome friends and visitors.

When we say we’re done, two things should be understood: First, that there are some minor things that can still stand to be updated (like the church sign outside, which needs a refresh) and some things that we’re not going to get to for a long time if at all (like making the pipe organ functional again). The renovations were to make the church structurally secure and updated; some things that were not directly relevant to that are projects for later. Second, the realization that with a building like this — or any building, really — “done” is a relative term. There’s renovation, and then there is maintenance. We’ll be in the “maintenance” phase of owning this building for as long as we have it, and we plan to have it for a while.

For the record, it never does get old, walking into the church and going, holy buckets, we own this thing. For so long we’ve been on the schedule of contractors and service people and craftsmen, going down a checklist of things that needed to be done before we could start using the place the way wanted and intended to. Finally we’re at the place where the schedule we have for the building is the one we set for ourselves. We still have a few things to do, to get it ready. When we do, we’re going to invite folks in friends to let them see what we’ve done with the place and how we mean to keep it part of the community, even as we use it for our own intended ends. We’re looking forward to that.

— JS

41 Comments on “An Update From the Old Church, August 31, 2023”

  1. And yes, that is The Beast on the altar. I don’t want to say we bought the church to have a place to put that ridiculous guitar, but on the other hand, once we had the church, it seemed inevitable where that ridiculous guitar would eventually go.

  2. I see that the extensive display “case” for the “Guitar” and other musical instruments is looking good and well on the way to “done”
    Us ordinary folk thought you were setting up a SFF church more fool us

  3. That looks awesome.
    I’m super excited to see what you ultimately wind up doing from an ‘open to the public’ perspective. Because I have family in Dayton and I think that combining a family visit with a “concert at the Old Church” visit would be pretty awesome.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. Gosh, to me it seems like this happened so quickly from when you first posted. It looks gorgeous! I know, I know, it actually took longer than expected and more work to do… but I’m glad you are enjoying your accomplishment up to this point.

    Great job!

  5. Congratulations! When you buy a building such as the church your not only the owner, you’re the caretaker for future generations.

  6. Fantastic!

    Also, I, for one, look forward to a day when you play the pipe organ wildly, complete with chilling megalomaniacal laughter.

  7. I was wondering if that was a working pipe organ in that picture! I love the smaller pipe organs found in old churches! One day I hope to get one that no longer has a home and put it in my house. I love what you’ve done with the church. I have restored two Victorian houses and it is really a labor of love. I am inspired by taking a worn out, dilapidated house and restoring it to a like-new condition. These amazing places lasted for over a hundred years in some cases, and with tender loving care will last a hundred more. The same with my upright cabinet grand piano. My parents bought it for $10 when I was 5 yrs old so that I could learn piano. It was already around 60 yrs old. It is now nearing 120 yrs old. I’ve had it completely restored so that it will be good for another 100 years! They just don’t build things like this anymore!

  8. UPDATE FROM ARCH-BISHOP VON SCALZI: “bad news, everyone; due to supply chain hassles, Amazon advised us there’d be no virgins delivered in time for the fullest-full-moon this week; we’ve had to cancel the virgin sacrifice”

    RESCHEDULED: on or about 07 APR 2043, fullest-full-moon virgin sacrifice

  9. Dear John,

    For real…

    I looked at the first photo with a bit of puzzlement. “Hmmm, odd—that doesn’t look quite right for a menorah. One, two three…”

    Took me about five seconds to interpret it correctly.

    pax / Ctein

  10. The “venerated book” in the stain glass window of the first pic is somehow perfectly appropriate! (Though I’m guessing it was part of the original church?)

  11. This would be such an awesome place for small concerts- like what Arlo Guthrie did (see Guthrie Center, Great Barrington, MA). These churches always seem to have incredible acoustics…. There are a lot of very talented musicians out there, and venues seem to be getting more and more scarce, especially on the folk/acoustic circuit. Heck, if I lived near there, I’d be bugging you to do a coffeehouse series!

  12. I do recommend against calling it the “Church of The Beast” though. I can’t see that going down too well in some areas.

  13. I’ve been exposed to enough secondhand HGTV to get hives when anyone starts “renovating” an old building, so it’s a relief to see you haven’t knocked out the stained glass and painted the brick like a mustache-twirling flipper.

  14. What an absolutely beautiful thing you and Krissy have done. The church is absolutely gorgeous, and I LOVE the landscaping.

    Can’t wait to see the story that unfolds here.

  15. Hope, Timothy Liebe:
    I’m disappointed in the both of you–I mean, “Conclave” is just sitting there…

  16. I can relate, somewhat, having turned an 1894 schoolhouse into my writing space. Much smaller, similar progression from start to never really finished. Same wow when I walk inside. Here’s to many years of new ideas in old spaces.

  17. Beautiful. I am looking forward to the repaired organ. I’ve played a pipe organ – they’re a lot of fun.

  18. That is majorly impressive visually, and even more so for the amount of resources (time, work, money) that I know were deployed to make it so gorgeous!

    The mention of concerts made me think of Athena’s posts about the Candlelight Concerts she has attended this summer. Is there a string quartet anywhere near Bradford that might want to use that beautiful space for a wonderfully local, homegrown Candlelight Concert at some point? Between your posts about The Old Church and Athena’s rhapsodic reports about the concerts she has attended, you’ve already laid the groundwork for marketing a Bradford edition of Candlelight Concerts, at least to Whatever visitors.

  19. Just have to add – I now have church envy. I was just looking at a Joe My God entry about the Diocese of NOLA selling off some property, including at least one church, & wondering how much that the Archbishop wanted. Sadly, I can’t afford even the smallest property offered. 😭

  20. Looks so good. One day, if it is your intention to have the space be as such, to visit in person.

  21. For when you get to that point…

    Back when we airplane homebuilders worked primarily in wood, one of our best sources for high-quality wood (and cherished for traditional values and customer service) was, of all things, a pipe organ company in Highland, Illinois. They’re still in business (3rd generation after 110 years), and although no longer providing aircraft-grade Sitka spruce and birch plywood (most of us airplane builders have gone on to aluminum or composites), they’re highly respected as restorers / repairers as well as builders of wonderful new organs. Great website, too:

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