About a decade ago, a family in my area of Iowa purchased a 24- by 40-foot Presbyterian church built in 1879 and transformed it into their home. The couple actually moved the church from where it stood for 133 years to an acreage 1 mile outside of town. During the move, the church’s tall spire required power lines be disconnected, cutting off power to an entire town for hours. However, nobody complained about the lack of electricity. Instead, townspeople came out of their houses to watch the historic church begin its journey toward a new life as a family home. (The church had been abandoned for at least five years before the couple purchased it.)
Today, the church’s original wood siding, pine entry doors and interior woodwork have been lovingly restored, and the bell in the steeple still can be rung. The church itself contains the family’s kitchen and living room while additions built on three sides accommodate bedrooms and other living quarters. The church/home is visible on a main highway, and I can’t help but look at it every time I drive by. It truly is one of the most magnificent homes in our area, and the owners say people still pull off the highway to take photographs of it. I’d be willing to bet that a new- construction home—no matter the beauty, size or price tag—rarely draws this sort of attention.
In this issue, we celebrate the upgrades and adaptations of religious facilities, like this church/home. Religious facilities often are constructed with such care and craftsmanship that, when the congregation dwindles, not retrofitting them into another use would be just plain irresponsible.
For example, our “Cover Story” features the 1913 St. Joseph Catholic Church in San Francisco. The Romanesque Revival-style church, which had been mostly vacant for 25 years, underwent a 13-year, $13 million restoration. The design team of Page & Turnbull and Ken Fulk brought the architecture back to its former glory while completely re-envisioning the interior as a studio for the arts community St. Joseph’s now serves.
As the pandemic rages on, church leaders have been challenged to embrace technology and broadcast services into congregants’ homes. Those congregations with the financial ability to upgrade their facilities have been adding video recording studios and state-of-the-art equipment to improve their broadcasts. Victor Body-Lawson, AIA, founder of Body Lawson Associates Architects and Planners, writes in “Business” how to retrofit existing space or build additions for these studios economically.
Speaking of the pandemic, who hasn’t been stocking up on all types of products meant to help us live our lives as normally as possible while being safe from COVID? One product that has been around for nearly a century but finally is being embraced by everyone during the pandemic is germicidal ultraviolet (GUV) lighting, which is being marketed as a way to kill viruses. Currently, there are no standards regulating GUV products and, as Andrea Wilkerson, a senior lighting research engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Alex Baker, who manages government affairs and public policy for the Illuminating Engineering Society, point out in “Component”, users must be informed and vigilant about safety protocols when using GUV products.
The pandemic continues to challenge all of us and, here at retrofit, it actually has inspired us. For years, we’ve debated whether to cover single-family homes in retrofit. I’ve been remodeling my house—and blogging about it on retrofit’s website—and the excitement of the remodeling process, along with the unwavering vision of our publisher, John Riester, has finally convinced our team to go for it. The first standalone issue of retrofit home will be polybagged with your regular issue of retrofit in September. retrofit home will cover truly distinctive homes, like the church/home I mention in this column. We think, even if you don’t work on single-family homes, these one-of-a-kind houses will inspire you, too. Learn more about retrofit home, and, in the meantime, if you know of or have worked on a structure that was not built as a single-family home but now is a truly inspiring residence, please contact me, (630) 308-4602.