A former church in Superior's East End is now a home for Paul Robinson and Jeffrey Longenecker.
The former Minneapolis couple transformed the former Church of the Redeemer Episcopal Church into a spacious residence during more than a year of construction.
When they purchased the church in August 2018, the goal was to have it move-in ready by May. However, the project didn’t go exactly as planned.
“The biggest challenge was finding the contractors or workers,” Longenecker said. “Once we found (contractor) Jeremy Johnson … then it was relatively easy. He connected us to all the right people. But until we found him, we stumbled a few times finding trustworthy, good, reputable people to do work.”
Robinson said the hard part for him was living in Minneapolis and only being here on the weekends while work progressed mostly during the week.
“It was kind of a dribbley move-in,” Longenecker said. “Paul moved in with the furniture around the middle of July. But then the kitchen only got done in October … that was the drama that never ended.”
Now, the church is filled with spacious yet intimate seating areas for conversation near the new fireplace or relaxing in front of the television on the opposite side of the room. A baby grand piano sits in one corner at the opposite end of the sanctuary from the long, table with an eclectic collection of chairs, just steps down from the kitchen in former alter area.
The kitchen is filled with wood cabinets around the refrigerator and built-in ovens behind a long island counter where the cook can look out over the living space under vaulted ceilings and heavy timber beams.
Off the kitchen is the mudroom with a closet for coats and seating to remove wet and soiled shoes. It leads to a fully renovated bathroom. The clawfoot bathtub in the bathroom was original to the church, Robinson said. Painted green with latex paint at one point, the tub was re-enameled to restore it to its pristine white, he said.
Beyond the bathroom is the staircase leading to the main bedroom in a balcony that overlooks the entire space. A former parish office has been converted into a guest bedroom.
“It’s a guest bedroom at least until the basement is done, but that’s Phase 2,” Longenecker said.
Plans for the basement include creating two guest bedrooms and a family room.
“We haven’t done anything with the basement yet, but we got it this far where we can live,” Robinson said.
Robinson, who works from home, shares office space with a winter porch in the church’s former vestibule.
“Nobody but me is surprised the money ran out before the list of needs,” Longenecker said.
The couple had anticipated investing between $200,000 and $250,000 in the church to make it home. Longenecker said that estimate was “rock spot on,” but it only accounted for about 60% of what needed to be done. He said there were costs, such as electrical wiring, that he didn’t account for, but for the most part, needs like tuckpointing and other renovations came in at their expected cost.
Serving as their own general contractor, Longenecker said there was a learning curve.
And he learned from the building as well. While the couple had planned a straight staircase at the back of the church, they ended up installing a horseshoe-style staircase because they didn’t have enough wall space to accommodate their plan.
“You have to be open to flexible changes,” Longenecker said. “A building like this will tell you what can and can’t happen. We had the best plan to do the stairs and when we actually got the stairs out and looked, it was impossible to do what we wanted … if you’re too rigid in what it’s going to be like, you get frustrated.”
Robinson said he has never lived in a place like the church before and he was surprised how cozy the wide-open space can be when you’re with a group of people.
“It’s interesting how when we have people over, it’s wonderful for entertaining,” Robinson said. “Just to have a big group of people sit at this big table with two pastoral chairs on the ends. It’s very warm.”
He said people seem to just have more fun within the huge space.
“I say to myself every day, ‘I can’t believe I live here,’” Robinson said. “And boy, have the neighbors embraced us.”