Homes Magazine - Page 52 - Holy Homes (3)

Homes Magazine
- Page 52
Holy Homes (3)
Rusko’s recommendation to others looking to buy in a converted church is to spring for the most comprehensive home inspection you can afford. “You want to make sure everything is really sound so you don’t get saddled with something down the road,” he explains. His biggest worry was the church’s original slate roof. Luckily, it passed muster.

Peter DeWolf Smith would agree that you need to know what you’re getting into with a church purchase. Smith bought his home in Baltimore County in 2001 directly from the Stevenson Methodist Church. He then spent over a decade upgrading all its systems – heating, plumbing, electrical – to be compatible with modern living. He donated the church’s bell to the American Visionary Art Museum and restored the crumbling bell tower. He replaced drafty windows and built a loft bedroom, a kitchen and a master bathroom.

When he bought the church, which was built in 1905, its congregation had dwindled to the point it was not even meeting every Sunday.

“The idea of a big old space is appealing particularly to artistic people looking for creative space,” he says. “People think it’s neat, architects and hipsters think it’s cool, kids think it’s great.”

Smith, who put his church home on the market last year, adds, “It makes a great party house.”

But owning a church home presents some unique challenges and responsibilities. Smith had a couple knock on his front door and ask if they could get married in his house, and when he first moved in, well-meaning people would leave donations of books and clothes on the church steps, not realizing it was now a private home. Smith can still recall the day he was cutting down a dead tree in his backyard when a woman stopped her car in the middle of the street and came running across the yard in tears. The tree had been a memorial planted for her son.

“These churches mean things to people,” says Smith, “They have strong ties to it – this is where they got married, had funerals and christenings.”

Rusko, on the other hand, says his move into the Canton church has been smooth, though a local insurance agent refused to provide a home insurance policy because she didn’t believe churches should be converted from their original, religious intent.

Yet with many churches sitting empty, vulnerable to vandals, fire and the effects of time and neglect, it is hard to see the conversion of area churches into happy homes as anything short of a blessing.