BY MATTHEW HENDERSON
Recently one of our town's finest church-home conversions was placed on the market. But perhaps as a testament to our continued love affair with repurposed churches, as well as to the sublimity of this particular home conversion, the special church-turned house on Southeast Harrison Street in Ladd's Addition was sold in the time that it's taken me to write about it.
Those familiar with historic Ladd's Addition in Southeast Portland may already know the house by its distinctive appearance. The 1920s-built, former Italian Presbyterian Church has a triangle-topped octagonal steeple with round porthole windows and a bold color-scheme of red, black, white and grey. It remained an ecclesiastical building until the early 2000s, when it was the First Baptist Church of the Deaf. But after fire claimed portions of the interior, the congregation moved on and it was converted to a home.
On my recent visit there, an evening sun peered through the autumn foliage framing its stately facade, while yellow leaves fell on its lush, manicured lawn. Despite having obvious curb appeal, the real treat is inside, where a vaulted, stone-floored foyer gives way to a spectacularly re-conceived nave space, encompassing a one and a half-story living room, Euro-style kitchen, and office, overlooked by a piano parlor-lounge carved from the church's former choir loft.
Getting the piano up there was apparently a feat of piano-mover heroism as the climb traversed multiple flights of stairs and required a temporary ramp installation nearly spanning the length of the house. (The piano is staying with the house.)
In addition to the piano loft, owners Clay France and Graham McReynolds also added a cross-facing master bedroom suite since moving there just over a decade ago. The original renovations were undertaken by a local construction contractor who converted the church to a residence in the early 2000s with the intention of selling it.
Other architectural features boasted in the listing included, "cathedral ceilings, skylights, Japanese soaking tub/steam room/shower, and taxes frozen until 2016."
Though the Harrison Street church-house conversion is exceptional, two other stylish conversions come to mind, each in their own way embody a touch of Dwell magazine flair while enjoying relative anonymity for being shuffled in amongst other more ordinary homes.
One is a small church-house on Northeast Sixth and Fremont inhabited by Beverly James Neal and her partner Amy, whose home whom I first discovered while looking for accommodations for a visiting friend via AirBnB. "Once a church, now a loft-style home with every comfort you'd look for in a home away from home..." the profile states.
I can attest that their place is every bit as nice as the photos make it seem, making it a fantastic option for anyone looking to station themselves in a highly transit-friendly part of Northeast Portland.
In nearby North Portland reside Tamara Goldsmith and her Church of Tam. Tamara bought the church, previously known as the Miracle Revival Center, in 2009 and moved in before Christmas of 2010; she has lived in the main part of the church ever since.
With the help of her then business partner, Eli Haworth, she turned the back half into an apartment, which she continues to rent out. After gutting the church and replacing plumbing, flooring, walls, insulation, and electrical, the pair added new bathrooms and kitchens to both units. Tamara added balcony windows and installed a 10-foot roll-up overhead door "for maximum access and connection to the outdoors," she explained. She also removed the driveway in favor of a landscaped side yard.
Of the decor, Tamara says: "I really enjoyed selecting custom things that I've always wanted in a home like a big farmhouse sink and interesting plumbing fixtures, and a large wood kitchen island on the edge of a large open central space, which accommodates a variety of uses including a great entertainment space, office and terrarium. I made the overhead pendant lights out of old glass milk jugs and am working on a recycled steel handrail to the upstairs and stained-glass windows utilizing recycled dichroic glass."
She's also planning a large-scale bookshelf utilizing recycled steel pipes and old-growth wood planks and looks forward to continuing to incorporate recycled materials wherever possible.