Afternoon Chat: Repurposing Empty Churches

By Kate Riley October 10, 2019

Down the street from my studio, a new school opened this year in a structure that was formerly a church. There is a growing trend across the nation, with thousands of churches closing their doors each year. While many faith communities are flourishing, there are some that aren’t. Declining congregations and lack of attendance are attributed to a transformation of modern religious behavior, causing some traditional churches to end their worship services, leaving beautifully constructed structures behind. What is a community to do?


church to school conversion

Adaptive reuse of traditional buildings isn’t new. Architecturally speaking, it’s similar to converting an old mill or factory built into a hotel or modern residences. Community leaders and architects can come together to transform the space into a thriving new venue. In another part of the small town where I live, a small Gothic style church structure is being remodeled for use as a performing arts center for the city.

The idea of converting churches does tear at my heart strings. I grew up going to Sunday school in my youth. I attended a Catholic high school, and throughout my life I’ve participated in protestant services across denominations. I have great appreciation for these institutions and respect for the faith based community. I’d much rather see new life brought to the structure, instead of watching it be torn down to make way for cookie cutter condos.

chicago conversion: church to residence

There are many examples of churches being converted into residences as well. One enormous challenge to note is the traditional high pitched ceiling. Originally planned to draw the eye up in contemplation, as a personal residence, the vaulted ceiling poses greater heating and cooling costs. Also challenging is how to make wide open spaces cozy and inviting?

What are your observations on this topic? How far should a community go to preserve religious structures? How do you feel about churches being repurposed as community centers, school, or art venues? Has this happened in your town too?


More articles of interest:

Repurposing Places of Worship

Historic Churches Reborn

Repurposed Churches of New Orleans



Wine Country Weekend: McEvoy Ranch

By Kate Riley October 8, 2019

Sundays are for rejuvenation, so often I go in search of serenity close by.  Just a few miles away from my house is an olive ranch, and it’s been on my list of places to visit for years. I used to drive past the ranch on my morning commute and I always wondered what life was like behind the gate. On Sunday, I finally got a chance to see.

McEvoy Ranch is one of the industry leaders and producers of organic extra virgin olive oil and is less than an hour north of San Francisco. There are more than 14,000 olive trees on the property, and just a few years ago they opened the ranch to visitors for tastings and tours.

If your goal is to sit in an idyllic setting surrounded by grapevines and orchards, to enjoy the sunshine, relax and sip wine, then this is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. I shot some pictures of the grounds, the farmhouse and the fall colors on my weekend visit to the ranch.














The staff is small, so tasting reservations are required, but it’s easy to make them online a few days before you visit. There’s a lovely tasting room and gift shop carrying all of their extra virgin olive oils, skin care products, and olive wood kitchen goods. The hydration body oil is my new favorite.

If you book an official walkabout tour, they’ll take you all around the property, into the groves, and vineyards and a trip to their conservatory too. Tastings and tours include a lesson in the process of making their award winning organic olive oil. I can’t wait to return since I learned they just started “Wine Wednesdays” – I’ll be bringing a group of friends there soon. :)


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