Home Is Where We Make It

As Helen and I zip up and down country roads looking for our latest trail head, we admire the many beautiful old houses we pass along the way.  We fantasize about winning the lottery, and what type of home would appeal to us if price was no object.

Recently, we noticed the spire of an old church on the horizon and as we got closer,  we found that it was under renovation.  The heavy equipment in the front yard was a dead giveaway.

That wonderful old building deserved a closer look, and so on our return trip home, I pulled off to the side.

Doors - Sonya former church2
Flying is Canada’s 1st official flag* – the Canadian Red Ensign from 1924.  The crest on the flag was to represent the four founding nations of our country … the lions of England, the Royal Scottish Lion, the harp of Ireland, and the Lys of France.  At the bottom of the crest is a sprig of green maple leafs – later changed to red in the 1950s.  The red maple leaf would become the enduring Canadian symbol on our flag, redesigned in 1965.  I love the stripped tree trunk used as a flag post, adding to the heritage look of this building.

Upon closer inspection, the small dog on the front step should have been our clue that this was in fact a residence and once again, we found ourselves trespassing on private property.

The dog’s barking attracted the attention of the owner who was working in the backyard, but after we explained why we had stopped, he was so gracious in talking to us about his unique home and its history.

Formerly St Andrew’s Presbyterian, the church was built in 1845.  Over 120 years later, the congregation was merged with one in a nearby town, and the building was subsequently sold in 1986.

The interior of the old church was eventually renovated as a residence in what we were told is an open concept home.

Although Helen and I both had our fingers crossed that he would offer a tour of the inside, it didn’t happen … in spite of our many questions and broad hints.  Quite frankly, I think he was torn between wanting to get back to work before the rains started, and continuing to talk about the building, which was obviously his pride and joy.

Doors - Sonya former church

The current owner is in the process of restoring the exterior of the building using old photographs he obtained of the church.  The windows are original, as is the front door.

Church-house in sonya3

A replica of these doors is being built and will eventually replace these badly weathered originals, which will then will be moved to the inside front foyer.

Although I was itching to see the interior of the former bell tower, the best I could get was a peek at some photos he had on his phone.  It is completely unfinished bare wood beams on the inside.

To round out my attraction to this former church, is a freestone wall built on the corner of the property.  It turns out that the current owner had it built, but it looks like it’s been there forever.

I half expected to find a small ancient graveyard on the other side.  There wasn’t.

Church-house in sonya

As we continued on our journey home, Helen reminded me of its fatal flaw as a fantasy dream home …. it lacks the requisite wraparound verandah to spend idle summer days.

I guess I will just need to keep looking.

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This post was inspired by Thursday Doors – a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

* Thanks to Helen for immediately identifying the flag that was flying.  It made it significantly easier for me to trace some of its history.

107 comments

  1. Fingers crossed you get an invite back – wouldn’t it great if they re-used some pews? I visualize a kitchen nook with pew benches situated around a table. Beautiful doors – glad to hear they will be reused. And amazing how that freestone wall looks original!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooo – I hadn’t thought about the original church pews. I love it when I go into a restaurant that has used old pews in their decor. It’s less than comfortable, but the visual effect is great.
      … and I agree, that stone wall was the icing on the cake for me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Those doors and windows are stunning! I’m glad that he is taking the time to repair it as closely to original as possible. I’ve not seen a church converted to a home, but have heard of old schools being converted and have been to a restaurant that was once a train station. It’s amazing what can be done with some imagination. Great post Joanne!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love to see how old buildings are repurposed. Restaurants, theatres, museums are the usual fare, but a building of this size becoming a home is quite unusual. I’m so glad we got to talk to the owner and get some background info on its history and his plans.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There was just so much about this one that caught my attention as we were driving by. I just had to stop. It was all gravy getting to talk to the owner and get some history on the building, so I can’t complain about not getting the inside tour 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha I suppose you could build a verandah around it but it would probably look out of place! That freestone wall, though, was definitely a good addition!
    It’s heartening to know there are people out there who care about restoring and preserving historical buildings 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fabulous find! Shame you didn’t get to see inside. The Big T is quite taken with the idea of buying an old church and has found a couple lately he considered. One has no working plumbing and is in the middle of nowhere and the other, which I detoured to visit on a trip to my dad’s, is a total wreck. He sees them as projects, but the term “money pit” has got stuck in my head. And neither of them are anywhere near as architecturally appealling as your find!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Splendid building. We once went to a party (Burns Supper) in a converted church. The couple lived in the old manse to which the church was attached and they had kept it as a big open space. There was a door on the stairs in the manse which took you into the pulpit! I was seriously envious.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think you should leave your email and blog posting alert with him. Maybe on a day he is not so busy………that may be a long time though, he will invite you over for a look-see of the finished project! Absolutely love the blue doors!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. What an amazing find! Seriously, this fellow is taking on quite a project by the sounds of it. A labour of love and probably of deeeeep pockets as well.
    I think the rest of us are all in agreement Joanne: you have to go back and get an invite to see the inside 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • It sounds really cool in concept, but I would like to reserve opinion until I actually got to see the inside. I’m hoping it’s a wow on the inside, but sadly I’ll never know.

      Like

  8. What a cool building, Joanne! I am so sad that the owner didn’t invite you in for tea (and photos). I would have loved to see what the inside looks like.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m waiting for the blog post when you two are finally arrested or chased by a dog over a stone wall. Big points for your exploring nature. What an incredible thing to make a church one’s home. I am thinking the heating bill might be a bit steep? Obviously such a big history buff these things are of secondary importance.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I always thought it would be cool to live in an old church. It will be an amazing place to live once the the structure is refurbished, with plenty of space. Wish you could have had a tour of the inside. Maybe you’ll have to go back on a sunny, dry day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve often thought about old school houses, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a former church converted into a residence before … especially one of this size! Usually they become theatres, museums, etc.

      Maybe if I’m lucky, he’ll find my post and contact me 🙂

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  11. That IS a cool home, but I wonder how the insulation is. And the heat. And is there central AC? See? The romantic homeowner in me has withered away. Now it’s all about comfort. ;-0 And a verandah, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a great find! Maybe he will let you inside the next time you “happen to pass by.” The great thing about following your blog is that when I see cool things, I can actually go there! Not this one, since it is residential. But you have your “foot in the door” and I hope you get the change to go in one day. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • HAHAHA!! Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that. Would it create bad mojo to swear in a former church? You just gave me another reason not to have a re-purposed church on my fantasy house list.

      Like

  13. Keep dreaming of winning the lottery ~> a woman in Raleigh, North Carolina won the lottery twice . . . in one day! First she won a scratch off for $10,000. After claiming her winnings, she bought another scratch off and won $1 million! She took it in a lump sum ~ after tax value a little less than $500K.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess I better start buying lottery tickets! It would probably increase my odds of winning 😉

      The one advantage Canadians have with lottery winnings in that they aren’t tax deductible. A million dollar win would be a million dollars. How sweet would that be?!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Gorgeous photos of a fascinating building. I wonder if he decorates the house for Christmas? Or is part of the town’s annual Holiday Open House, if they have one? There’s hope that you’ll get inside there, yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. What an excellent find! I would have been hinting broadly about seeing the inside too. I’m so grate to those who take on these types of projects. They require imagination, deep pockets, boundless optimism, and a bit of crazy. Maybe you can return in the spring to see if it’s done and you can get a tour… and pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I agree with the bit of crazy. I couldn’t help but wonder his wife was as enamoured with all the ongoing construction 😉

      It’s funny you should mention returning in the spring to see if it’s finished. Helen is the extrovert and easily does 80% of the talking when we meet someone. Your words were pretty much what she said to him as we were leaving 😃

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m afraid it will have to remain in the category of ‘fantasy’ for me. I don’t have a single handyman skill, so I can’t imagine undertaking a project like this without a fortune to finance it!

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  16. Beautiful place to call home. I like the flagpole, too. I wonder how they managed to build the archway in that freestone wall, without the stones dropping out (or did they cheat with a little cement?).

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live in a former church. The churches I am familiar with make me think it would be cold, or hot and just a little bit weird. Still, those doors are beautiful, and the stained glass windows would be very nice to have. I would love to know more about the new ones being made, that sounds like a fun, albeit daunting project.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect you would be right about the hot and cold thing. I love high ceilings but they probably cause havoc with regulating room temperature.
      I can just imagine how beautiful it would be on a sunny day with the light streaming in through all those stained glass windows.

      … and what about that second floor? Is it all just open to the ceiling? Is there a mezzanine? Or fully closed 2nd floor, reducing the lofty ceiling? SO MANY questions!!

      When you mentioned “the new ones”, I assume you meant the replacement doors being made. All he said was that they would be *exact* replicas made of oak. Since you just went through your garage attic door project, I’m guessing this would be a interesting idea for you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for visiting! I too am bad at checking out other door blogs – I have trouble enough keeping up with my regular stuff!!
      So glad you enjoyed this lovely find 🙂

      Like

  18. Oh my! I would love to live in a place like that! (And have the money to renovate/restore it, etc.) I can understand why you were so eager for an inside peek, Joanne. This fellow obviously knows what he’s doing. The stone wall looks like it’s a thousand years old.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I had a friend who had an apartment (there were 2) in a renovated old church. The outside was beautiful but the inside wasn’t practical. That may be more the fault of the renovator. In any case, she couldn’t wait to move out. It was very hard to heat. Dreams are great though. You don’t have to heat them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The realities of these old buildings often don’t match the idealized dream. No question that the vision of the renovator to make a practical living space is critical … and they sometimes fail. That’s why I was so curious about the inside.

      My reality is that I would need divine intervention to be able to afford an extravagance like this! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  20. WOW what a trip it would be to live in a old converted church like this Joanne 😀 Does this maybe ring a bell ? Thanksgiving, Alice’s Restaurant hint hint, nudge nudge, say no more 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  21. What a masterpiece I assume this will be!

    Reiner is always saying how “If I had a billion/million/quadrillion dollars I’d buy and restore [insert your choice of derelict structure, block or entire town].

    But a house DEFINITELY needs a wraparound porch. No question.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. It’s so great that you and Helen take the time to go back and investigate these interesting roadside places…places some of us might not bother with. I think there must be a term for this – slow travel or mindful travel…but whatever it is you do it perfectly and that’s why you’re such an interesting blogger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a lovely compliment! Thank you 💕

      I’m lucky that Helen’s curiosity matches, and sometimes exceeds, mine and she’s a willing participant in these deviations from plan 🙂

      Like

  23. Marvelous building. What a find. I would go back and have a look, too. The narrow doors and windows always appeal to me.
    All the money in the world? I’d choose a stone cottage and it would have narrow doors and windows. Instead of a large porch, I’d prefer to open exterior wall.
    I did not know that about the Canadian flag — I think that’s a nifty evolution, merging and then unifying.
    I, too, would have reckoned a small graveyard lay beyond the wall.
    So nice the man talked to you about his beloved project, pity he didn’t offer that tour!

    Liked by 1 person

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