Church finds new life as family home

The Weinrick family is pictured in their newly renovated, church-turned-home on the corner of Front and Ridge streets. Photographs of the inside of the home show how the family kept much of the architectural beauty of the church intact, combining it with modern elements to create a home that’s both a nod to the structure’s past and a testament to modern design. The outside of the Weinrick home is pictured. The Weinricks’ use this space as a catch-all in their loft. (Photos by Erin Gaura)

The Weinrick family is pictured in their newly renovated, church-turned-home on the corner of Front and Ridge streets. Photographs of the inside of the home show how the family kept much of the architectural beauty of the church intact, combining it with modern elements to create a home that’s both a nod to the structure’s past and a testament to modern design. The outside of the Weinrick home is pictured. The Weinricks’ use this space as a catch-all in their loft. (Photos by Erin Gaura)

by Erin Gaura

Picturing a church that has been converted into a home, one may imagine a hollow structure of stone with rows of stained-glass saints lining the walls that allow for little light. The bright, upcycled building with contemporary décor at the top of Third Street in Marquette may not immediately come to mind.

A former church in Marquette is being reimagined by a local family, since being vacated by its religious congregations after over a century of worship.  The building at the corner of Ridge and Third streets once served as the place of worship for both the Faith in Christ and the Northpoint Baptist fellowships before it was transformed into the family home it is now.

The church was bought by Marquette native Marc Weinrick, who now lives in the entirely renovated building with his wife, Jungsuk, and 5-year-old daughter, Armina.  The family recently relocated to Marquette from Chicago in order to be closer to nature, and as a better environment for Armina to grow in. They have been living in the church building for just over three months and so far are loving it.

“It’s quite a transition from the Chicago Metropolitan area, but we moved back for all the right reasons; we’re closer to the outdoors, it’s quiet, safe and there’s such a vibrant community,” said Weinrick, a massage therapist and acupuncturist at Meridian Therapies in Marquette.

The church building is relatively small, perfect for the single family, three-bedroom home it has become. Upon stepping inside, the modern, artsy interior design gives little evidence that the building once housed entire religious communities. However, Weinrick emphasized his effort to preserve the charm and history of the location by incorporating pieces of the original church in his renovations.

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“We wanted something unique, so saving pieces of the original building that we really liked helps maintain that appeal,” said Weinrick, speaking of some of his home’s features, like the altar that remains at the southern end of the building.

The house also retains some of the original doors, the “speaker grate” from the pipe organ refashioned into a light-up counter top, and a stained glass window in the second floor loft space, perhaps the most eye-catching feature. Weinrick explained that on days with optimal sunlight, the window will catch the light when the sun’s position synchronizes with it, casting a watercolor-like glow across the floor.

Additionally, the family has not renounced its own personal design, as the scale of the renovations has allowed them to construct their dream home.

“We went for a modern-industrial-contemporary aesthetic combined with the traditional church features, and still tried to be ecologically minded when we incorporated older pieces with the newer,” Weinrick said.

The area of the old bathrooms and staircase has since been completely gutted and transformed into the master bedroom on the first floor, while the second houses Armina’s bedroom as well as a guest bedroom. These rooms are entirely new additions by Weinrick, who built new walls to capitalize on the relatively modest square footage. However, the lofty vaulted ceilings open up the space, in turn making the building appear much larger. The cool blue and grey hues that the interior design features also bring a sense of further openness to the home.

“A lot of the buildings in Marquette are paying homage to the forest, whether it’s a log cabin or wood paneling or a green color palette, but one of the design aesthetics that inspired us was the lake,” Weinrick said.

Lake Superior’s influence is easily spotted in larger elements such as the blue shades of the walls in addition to more subtle, nautical themed décor like the curtains sewn by Jungsuk.

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Perhaps what is most incredible about this house and its renovations is that they were done primarily by Weinrick himself.

“To hire someone out to do the work would have been prohibitively expensive, and I think that’s why it had been on the market for a couple years when we found it,” he said.

Though the church was not exactly what the family had expected, the building was unique, in a prime location, and had a brick exterior, filling all the family’s requirements.  It just so happened that Weinrick was at a point in his career that allowed him to commit to the work required.

Weinrick said the opportunity to renovate was a huge part of the decision, in order to create exactly what the family wanted. Work on the plumbing, electrical, windows and drywall was contracted out for the basic, initial work known as the “rough-ins.” Afterward, Weinrick installed the appliances and fixtures.

Though the work was challenging and tedious, Marc and Jungsuk are both immensely happy with the results. With design help from friends at Studio RAD, Weinrick was able to modify his ideas and develop a blueprint that incorporated the building’s individuality into a 21st century residence.

“We respect the history that the building has, and we definitely didn’t want to lose that character,” Weinrick said.

Prior to the building becoming a family residence, it had been an ecclesiastical home for nearly 125 years.  Built in 1898 by a group of Swedish immigrants, the church was completed over the course of three months in the harsh Upper Peninsula winter.

“Construction began in October of 1898 and the first service was held January 1st of 1899,” said Weinrick.

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Though the Swedes’ building was sturdy and thorough, by the time the Weinricks acquired it, it was in a dismal state and desperately in need of updating.  Originally a Methodist church, it was known for Marquette’s blue-collar Methodist community.

“There’s another one on the other side of Front Street that still functions as a Methodist church that was more white-collar,” Weinrick said.

Though the family has visited the Marquette Historical Society and contacted its past congregations, there is little information available about who designed their home or its original blueprints. Most of what they know comes from observing the architecture, such as the strong Scandinavian influence in features like the steeply pitched roof line.

Jungsuk is planning on making a book collection of pieces of the church’s history, and the couple urges anyone with information or stories of the location to reach out to them. They intend for the collection to stay with the former church regardless of who owns it.

Now that the Weinricks are settled into their new home and have fully made the transition back from city life, they can finally appreciate the work they’ve invested and the charm of their church-home.

Marc and Jungsuk plan to remain in their current residence into their retirement. Though Chicago did grow on Weinrick while he attended grad school in the city, it is Marquette’s small town vibe and proximity to Lake Superior and the forest that attracted the couple back home.

“We’ve traded our concrete jungle for a proper North Country forest, and we couldn’t be happier,” Weinrick said.

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