A former church is undergoing a transformation into a home for a Twin Cities couple moving to the area.
Paul Robinson and Jeffrey Longenecker closed in August on the former Church of the Redeemer Episcopal Church on East Fourth Street in Superior. They hope to have it move-in ready by May. Demolition is complete inside, making way for the work to begin.
Work is underway to tuckpoint the stonework of the historic church in Superior's East End. Next week, the non-stone surfaces will be painted, and next month, work begins on the perennial gardens.
"We will be doing gardening all along 19th and Fourth," Robinson said.
In January, the wood floors in the sanctuary, altar area and former priest's office will be restored as part of the plan to transform the building into a home.
The sanctuary will be converted into a grand living space, with massive wood arches in the vaulted ceilings and a fireplace between the windows. The church office will be transformed into a study, with a door that leads out to a garden patio.
They plan to contemporize the bathroom on the first level; create a mudroom using a portion of the current kitchen; and design a modern kitchen from the altar.
"It's here. In the day and age of reuse, recycle - why not make it into something else?" Robinson said. "It was a house of God. Why not just make it into a home?"
Longenecker, executive director of Community Action Duluth, said he was ready to take on a bigger project after tackling smaller ones along the way.
"We've looked at churches; we've looked at barns," Longenecker said. "I love the space and volume. I think they're built with really good bones that are attractive. We like living in the city, so having something in an older part of the city is appealing. We like entertaining, so a big space is good."
Plans include restoring the double doors parallel to Fourth Street, adding tile floors and restoring the wainscot for a grand entry into the living space, and using the narthex, or entryway, on 19th Avenue East as a winter porch.
"What's quite nice is the bell is still here," Longenecker said.
The basement, which once served as a fellowship hall, is the second phase of the project.
"When we bought it, there was a three-bedroom apartment in here," Longenecker said, pointing to the floor where the outline walls were still visible. The walls are gone.
When the basement is complete, he said it will feature two bedrooms and a family room adjacent to the kitchen that once served a fellowship hall. Men's and women's bathrooms are still there.
"I have done projects like this on a much smaller scale," Longenecker said. "So when I looked at the potential, I thought the potential was worth the effort and we're relocating from Minneapolis, so we have some time between selling the Minneapolis house and actually having to live here. We have until May, hopefully, to get the bulk of the first floor done. The basement work will come after that."
The basement is going to take some serious work to combat water that has infiltrated the space, causing paint to peel and one section of wall bow inward. In mid-November, the waterproofing is scheduled to begin, but the exterior foundation and wall haven't been scheduled yet, Longenecker said.
"The water was unbelievable," Longenecker said. "We've got a contractor to waterproof this and that wall we've got to excavate and do some work on."
Longenecker said the long-vacant church made some wonder if it was going to be saved.
"It was surprising to think that anyone thought it was that close to being lost. It would have been a shame to have it fall into bad enough disrepair that it would have been lost," he said.
Longenecker estimates the renovations will cost between $200,000 and $250,000 when the project is complete.
"It's been here 125 years," Longenecker said. "We'll hopefully put it on a good enough footing that it will last another 125 years."