Greenes turn historic church into home

Thursday, September 17, 2020
Amber and Kevin Greene of Greene Realty stand in front of the former Roachdale Nazarene Church. They recently renovated the building into a modern home.
Banner Graphic/BRAND SELVIA

ROACHDALE -- Amber and Kevin Greene would say they did not know at first what to do with an abandoned church building.

What they did know is that they did not want to see it torn down.

After some digging and phone calls to longtime residents, they realized that it not only holds many cherished memories. As it turned out, the newly renovated home at 205 N. Walnut St. stands on the site of the very first church in Roachdale.

The property dates back to 1883, only a few years after Roachdale was organized as a town. According to R. E. Banta in “First 90 Years of a Hoosier Town: A History of Roachdale,” a Methodist congregation was formed at this time. They then built the first church there.

With a remodeling and a rededication taking place in 1914, the Methodist church was active for just over 50 years. Banta wrote that it suffered from declining interest and was eventually closed in 1934. The building apparently burned sometime later, but the basement was left intact.

The Roachdale Nazarene Church was established in 1936 when Rev. Jesse Towns organized the congregation with 12 charter members. With a small membership, they settled into the basement of the former Methodist church in 1941. At a cost of approximately $1,000, it was refinished and then roofed over. Banta noted that the men of the congregation did much of the work.

Roachdale Clerk-Treasurer Debbie Sillery remembered one -- perhaps prescient -- moment she was told about from when the basement was used. When it was once found flooded, a hymnal was floating on the surface turned to the song “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing.”

The Nazarene congregation used the basement church until 1954, when they built a new brick church above it. It was constructed with Sunday school rooms as well as an auditorium that could seat 250 people.

The Roachdale Nazarene Church was used until 1994 when the congregation vacated the building. It was then sold to Jaye and Jewell Jeffries. This was the beginning of a hot-potato scenario in which it would change hands three more times.

In about 1996, Rev. Larry Phillips and his wife Edie established the Family of God Church. They then approached the Jeffries to lease the building. According to a warranty deed, the Jeffries later sold the property to Family of God in 2003.

Family of God retained the old Nazarene church until 2016, when it was donated to Carl Waterman. He wanted to convert the building into a drug rehabilitation facility through the New Life Connections organization. However, Waterman found it had fallen into serious disrepair and thus abandoned the project.

Having worked on the quitclaim deed between Waterman and Family of God, the Greenes -- more or less by default -- were finally given the building by New Life Connections in 2018. By this time, it had been vacant since Family of God went defunct in 2011.

“If we didn’t do it, it would be torn down; and I didn’t like that idea,” Amber said about taking on the renovations. ”But I remember thinking, ‘What are we going to do with an abandoned church building?’”

One of the main issues was the roof leaking and falling in. Almost all of the pews were effectively destroyed along with other significant damage. However, the original brick and concrete bones of the building were still structurally sound.

“It was basically a shell with a roof,” Kevin said. “The community didn’t want apartments there, so I went and graphed out four beds and three baths.”

While the outside is still recognizable as the Nazarene church, the inside is now a completely different layout. However, the basement from the original Methodist church remains, and some of the brick has been exposed.

The Greenes spent the past three months turning the building into a “modern-concept” home. New insulation, air conditioning, heat and electricity were installed, and a new roof was also put on. Kevin said that insurance would not cover the property, especially without the latter.

However, hints from the Nazarene church were preserved. Some of the original stained glass was incorporated into the inside entrance, while others were saved to give to former members. The original swinging doors leading into the former sanctuary were also kept.

The remodeling has attracted interest from the Roachdale community, excited that the old church where many basically grew up -- including Sillery and her family -- has been revitalized. Amber noted that the new property will also increase the value of the surrounding homes.

“We love this community,” Amber said as being much of the inspiration behind saving the church. The aim ultimately was to preserve an integral part of the small town’s pastoral history.

An open house will be held at the home on Sunday, Sept. 20 from 1-3 p.m.

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  • Great people!! Roachdale and Putnam County is better for Kevin and Amber living here.

    -- Posted by beg on Fri, Sep 18, 2020, at 2:36 PM
  • *

    Great story.

    Its nice to see old buildings reclaimed as much as possible, even when they are turned into something else, especially when something of its original form/function is kept.

    I tip my hat to the Greenes.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Fri, Sep 18, 2020, at 3:27 PM
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