Thursday, October 30, 2008

Visiting churches past

During the great rush to the suburbs that hollowed out most small and medium-sized American towns in the recent past, many churches also relocated, outward bound along with their parishioners. Prescott was lucky to keep its central business district, though with a different, tourist-oriented suite of shops, offices and restaurants. But we, too, lost much of the religious base. Makes a difference, too. One more reason for local folk not to show up downtown. Not only that, there are all these distinctive buildings that need to be "repurposed", to use an dreadful new cyber word coined by Bill Gates or one of his minions. I've been collecting examples of what happens to such structures.

Perhaps the most distinctive is the Prescott Fine Arts theater, which was the original Sacred Heart Church. Interestingly enough, Sacred Heart is one of the few downtown churches that did not relocate several miles away, but moved to the top of the bluff just the other side of Granite Creek. This lovely old building deserves a separate post detailing its many features.

Anthony's, the furniture/antique refinisher on South Gurley, is located in a structure that literally shouts "former church" as does the Chapel Inn, a bed and breakfast on Mt. Vernon Street (below).

I don't know just what business occupies this one-time church in Forbing Park (above).

And I'm guessing that the office buildings above and below, on Marina and Willis Streets respectively, were formerly churches. Both feature that distinctive architecture.

Occasionally, the new use for a structure remains religious. Currently the former Lutheran church on West Gurley is serving the local Greek Orthodox congregation. However, that arrangement is temporary, as the group is said to be planning to build if and when. The previous tenant was an aikido studio and a for lease sign remains posted on Gurley.

St. Lukes moved north since I moved into Prescott. I would guess that parking was a major reason. Now the former chapel has been incorporated into the large, nearby Baptist church complex (which has a couple of fair-sized parking lots.)

Joel's Place is part of the controversial Church on the Street, which is heavily involved in rehab and homeless issues.

The move away from the central city is not really over. Out Willow Creek, the Disciples of Christ First Christian Church has a prominent for sale sign in the parking lot.

The same is true for the Prescott Presbyterian Church, located in a Marina Street building dating back to the 1890s.

Sad to say goodbye to all those congregations, but at least the old buildings remain to remind us of earlier times. It would be a pity to lose the flavor they add to our downtown.


Anonymous said...

They must be doing well, as far as funding, if they can move and build a new church.

Anonymous said...

Good reporting in this post, GJ, especially with the tone of sadness.

Reminds me of some Left Coast towns... the downtown changes to accommodate tourists instead of the folks who live there.

~Anon in AV.

TomboCheck said...

Wow, another very comprehensive post GrannyJ!

I'll be looking at these buildings in a new light. :)

Granny J said...

steve -- at least some of them are! I don't know that all the no-longer-church congregations are still with us.

anon av -- actually it's the other way around; downtown changes because the locals abandon it & the businesses adapt to save their skins. Yes, it does make one somewhat sad.

tombo -- I hope that if I guessed wrong, somebody out there will correct me!

Melanie A. said...

I wonder how many downtown churches closed because the congregants turned to other denominations? Fewer possibilities for today's multimedia mega-church extravaganzas in those plainer old structures.

I have an untrustworthy memory of the Anthony's furniture shop as Mt. Olivet or Mount of Olives Chapel.

Anonymous said...

Cheer up Granny J! At least Prescott's old churches haven't been turned into nightclubs or mosques, like in Europe.

Nor did you show any old churches that have been turned into Pay Day Loan shark businesses. Of course, that at least would have been a sacred use of the building, in our culture.

Granny J said...

melanie --you know, I've no idea how many megachurches we have locally, if any.

boonie -- I suspect that wouldn't go over very well in Prescott, which is a rather conservative town, despite our student crowd and the enviros who dot the landscape.

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