Former St. Paul's in Tarentum transformed into the unique Tarenbee
A news story inspired WTAE-TV anchor Michelle Wright to take action.
The Ross resident reported on the Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining bees and the queen according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Once thought to pose a major long-term threat to bees, reported cases have declined substantially over the past five years.
But Wright wanted to do her part to make sure the threat doesn't return. That television report was the catlayst to become a beekeeper.
“I became fascinated with bees, not only for their importance in pollinating so much of what we eat,” Wright says. “It's also so impressive watching all the work that goes into the success of the hive and how all the honeybees work together to keep future generations going strong.”
She's taken her passion for bees a step further with the opening of Tarenbee, a charming event space in Tarentum with an historic chapel and commercial kitchen. Built in 1889, it was originally St. Paul's German Evangelical Lutheran Church. It was founded by the Rev. J. George Amschler, who served the church for 42 years.
Wright bought the church on Feb. 14 to allow beekeepers and food producers use of the facility. Along with fellow beekeeper Jim Fitzroy and his wife Eileen, of Penn Hills, the three have helped with renovations. Project manager Larry Mattoon of Ross, whose had the vision to restore many of the original features of the historic building, has been leading the restoration.
Tarenbee's historical original features include a working Estey antique pipe organ, stained glass windows, magnificent antique hand-carved altar, hemlock hardwood floors, exposed beams and stunning rock walls.
Wright is hosting an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 30, where she will be conducting tours, showing videos of the transformation. Honey Queen Hannah Albright of Allegheny Township, a Penn State student, will be greeting guests and there will be demonstrations on honey extraction and bottling.
“Every third bite of food you eat is pollinated by a honeybee,” says Jim Fitzroy, who would love to form a beekeepers club Tarentum. “Honey is a by-product of pollination. Anything good to eat is pollinated by bees.”
Wright credits the Fitzroys, Mattoon, Dom DeMarco of DeMarco Construction in New Kensington and electrician Mike Dialioso of Fawn with making this a reality. Wright has hives in Penn Hills, Evans City, Millvale and Penn State New Kensington.
I realize it's a quirky hobby, but I am interested in beekeeping and I want a place where beekeepers can meet and people can come and learn about beekeeping,” Wright says. “It has been a lot of hard work but it's all been worth it.”
During the restoration, they uncovered many of the original features. The 1901 doors are from Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden. The facility has also been made handicapped accessible.
In making the changes, Wright wanted to maintain the integrity of the chapel and the founding pastor, she says. She plans to use the space as a rental facility for weddings, bridal showers, small parties, lectures, seminars, church services, cooking classes, meditation, photo shoots and food production.
The name comes from a combination of Tarentum and Bee.
“I wanted the name to be memorable,” she says. “I am very grateful to everyone in the Allegheny Valley for being so helpful through this renovation process, and hopefully they will enjoy Tarenbee.”
The chapel capacity is 50-85 people and gathering room holds 20-40.