Freeport church gets new life
After sitting empty for more than five years, the Trinity Episcopal Church in Freeport has new life.
The Freeport Renaissance Association has teamed with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to rejuvenate the church into a social hall and museum.
Members of the Renaissance Association hope the 144-year-old church, now called Freeport Community and History Center, will be home to wedding receptions, banquets, and any other sort of get-together that a social hall can host.
“We realized the building had sat empty for many months; what a shame nothing was happening there,” said Mary Bowlin, the director of the Freeport-Leechburg-Apollo Group (FLAG). “When we were first pondering the project, we went inside and said ‘Wow — we are smitten by this building.'
“It's really a facility that's worth the elbow grease to save.”
The church, which was built in 1868, closed in 2007 because membership was down to about only 15 people.
The church has a long, rich, history in Freeport.
According to church records, it's built on land that was purchased from James Armstrong for $200. Armstrong was one of the founders of Freeport.
But members of the Renaissance Association want to make sure folks know this isn't just the updating of an old building.
“We wanted to make it a place for people from Freeport, and from anywhere, to be able to use and take pride in,” said Carol Sweeney, a Renaissance Association members. Sweeney, along with fellow association member Marce Urbanski, headed up the restoration.
“So many people have been surprised by the building and how beautiful it is,” Sweeney said. “It will be a great place for events.”
The Community Center already hosts events. Every first Friday of the month, the Renaissance Association holds “Freeport First Fridays,” which provide entertainment and refreshments for a $5 entrance fee.
Urbanski, who owns the Canvas Art & Gift Shop on Fifth Street, said the potential uses of the building are boundless.
“We're hoping to put this building back on the map,” said Urbanski. Along with Sweeney and a team of volunteers, the group worked three to four times a week for almost a year to get the building into working shape. “Its potential is beyond your imagination.”
The building still has the look of a church inside. The windows are made of almost 200-year-old stained glass, the pulpit — decorated with gold — still sits in the front of the church, a cross sits on the altar, and church pews are used for seating around tables set with Valentine's Day decorations.
“This is still a consecrated church,” Urbanski said. “The Episcopal Diocese is just renting us the space.
“We still have to host religious gatherings throughout the year,” she said. “The diocese has been amazing to work with.”
Joan Gundersen, the property administrator and archivist for the diocese, said the church was more than happy to be able to help the Renaissance Association give the old church an update.
“This is one of the oldest buildings in our diocese,” Gundersen said. “We're happy to see it preserved for the good of the community, and for it not be a financial drain on the community.
“We're glad the building and its history will be preserved.”Gundersen said the diocese put a new furnace into the building to help with the rejuvenation.
Along with a reception hall, the Renaissance Association said it plans to add a historical center to the building.
“I'd love for someone to be able to come in and have a cup of coffee and research the history of Freeport,” Sweeney said. “Freeport is such a tight-knit community, people should know about the history.
“I have old pictures (of the town) on glass slides from the 1800s.”
Sweeney and Gundersen said they hope that anyone who has pieces of the town's history comes forward so the pieces can be displayed in the building.
“We love Freeport and we want to see it grow,” Sweeney said. “Hopefully, this will help.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Beaver footprints found along Allegheny River bank, not gator
- Plum woman dies in Washington Township crash
- Crews battling Oakmont church blaze
- Avonmore’s Harvest Jubilee turns 50
- New Kensington fire remains under investigation
- Alligator spotted along the banks of the Allegheny River in Cheswick
- Hulton Bridge closing now at 9 p.m.
- Fire ravages 2 buildings in downtown New Kensington
- Harmar to allow electrified security fencing
- Virus found at South Butler Primary School
- Charges filed against man shot by police in Bell Township