Posted: Friday September 1, 2017
While there are churches around the world that remain places of worship for decades or even centuries, others might get sold and repurposed. The high-beamed ceilings can make for outstanding acoustics for music venues, nightclubs and recording studios while the timeworn ambiance of a hundred-year-old building can also make for an ideal spot for a restaurant, art gallery, bookstore or a place to call home.
Anyone who lives in Denver doesn’t have to look far to find examples of this, whether it be The Church nightclub, the Curious Theatre, the International Church of Cannabis, the Sanctuary Lofts or Little White Dress Bridal Shop.
By the time South of Colfax Nightlife founder Regas Christou took over St. Mark’s Parish Church in the mid ‘90s, the century-old building had endured two fires, a wind storm that caused its tower to fall, as well as three-year struggle between Episcopalian groups to control the church before Diocese of Colorado took it over 1987. The building sat empty for seven years until Christou bought it and then spent the next three and a half years remodeling it before opening it as The Church nightclub on New Year’s Eve 1996. It would go on to be one of the Denver’s premiere nightlife spots with state of the art sound and lighting systems.
Just a few blocks west from the Church is the Curious Theater Company, which took over a nineteenth-century church in 1997. Since then, the company’s core has grown to more than two dozen actors, designers and directors, who put on the some of the most thought-provoking and enthralling productions in Denver.
A 112-year-old church in West Washington Park got a ten-month renovation that included interior artwork by a pair of internationally known street artists before opening International Church of Cannabis opened in the spring of 2017. But while its members, known as Elevationists, worship the weed, there’s no consumption allowed when the church is open to the public from 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday through Sundays.
The twelve units of the Sanctuary Lofts are housed in the former Scott Methodist Church, which was originally built in 1889 (the same year the building that houses the Church nightclub was constructed) and were converted to residential condos in 1990. Many of the units feature stained glass.
Nearly a decade after originally opening in Castle Rock, Little White Dress Bridal Shop moved in 2017 to the hundred-year-old Epworth building, which was originally a church and community center that served the Five Points and Curtis Park neighborhoods. The building had sat vacant for three years, enduring years of water and fire damage, among other things, before undergoing a four-year long renovation.
Repurposed Churches Beyond Denver
After being built in the 1840s, New York’s Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion would go to have many different incarnations, most notably the Limelight nightclub, which opened in 1983 with a party that was hosted by Andy Warhol. The club soon became one of the city’s hottest night spots while also attracting a number of celebrities before drugs ran rampant in the place and resulting in the police shutting it down number of times throughout the ‘90s. It lasted a few years in the 2000s as Avalon before the building’s days of being a nightclub were over in 2007. A few years later it opened as the Limelight Marketplace, which included a few retail businesses, before becoming a gym in 2014.
CBS 30th Street Studio, originally Adams-Parkhurst Memorial Presbyterian Church that was built in 1875, is about a mile from Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion. During its stint as a studio from 1948 to 1951, there were a number of legendary albums recorded in a room that 100-foot high ceilings, including Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, hailed as the best-selling jazz album of all time.
Elsewhere around the county churches have also been used to house restaurants like, the original 5Church in Charlotte, South Carolina that was transformed from a church into a popular spot with cutting-edge interior design in 2012. In Phoenix, Taco Guild is situated in what was once Bethel Methodist Church, built in 1893.
Overseas, several churches have been turned into a variety of things, especially in England. While churches in the States can date back a hundred years or so, they go back 1,000 years in London, like the crypt of St. Mary-le-Bow, which houses the restaurant Café Below. There’s also the Museum of Comedy, located underneath St. George’s Bloomsbury and the Asylum, which hosts plays and operas.
If there’s a second-best use for a church besides worship, it might be a bookstore. The stunning Selexyz Bookstore in Maastricht, Holland took over what once a Dominican cathedral that was built in 1924. Much of the church’s structure and religious motifs were preserved as with a three-stories of bookshelves.