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When I first wrote about this church in October 2008, its fortunes didn’t look all that good. Its buttresses had been hit repeatedly by motorists driving down the alley and bricks were crumbling away. The building’s peeling grey paint exposed a building in need of some serious repair and the structure’s owner, the Kraemer Paper Company, wasn’t interested in selling as Nulu began to blossom all around it.

(Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)
(Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

Kraemer Paper used the structure at 218 South Clay Street as a warehouse for toilet paper and other janitorial supplies, masking the nearly 160-year-old structure’s proud history.

It’s exciting today that the old church’s fortunes are looking up and renovations are planned for the property that will add to the vibrancy of the expanding Nulu neighborhood.

(Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)
(Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

WDRB’s Chris Otts reported Wednesday that the building, located on Clay Street between East Market Street and Jefferson Street, has been sold to husband-and-wife team Creighton Mershon and Jessica Arrington, New York City–based graphic designers. The couple plans to redo the church as a mixed-use structure with commercial space and residences.

Mershon and Arrington purchased the structure from investors Bill and Mary Lou Marzian who had snagged the structure a couple years before and made some needed repairs (they purchased the church in 2012 for $300,000).

(Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)
(Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

An inscription atop the church on reads in German, “Zions Kirche, Der Ersten Deutschen Bischoffl Methodisten Gemeinde. Gebaut 1843, U. Vergrossert, A.D. 1859.” That translates to “Zions Church, First German Methodist Church in the City, Founded 1843, U. Vergrossert, Built 1859.”

According to a report from the Kentucky Archaeological Society, the building is much older than the inscription suggests. “The first story of the church was built in 1842 and in 1846 a single story parsonage was added at the rear,” the report reads. “A second story was added in 1859.” That means the oldest part of the building is now 170 years old.

The report also noted that once the congregation moved, the structure was adapted into space for civic and religious groups and eventually a cigar box factory.

The church shown boarded up in March 1980. (High Foshee / NRHP)
The church shown boarded up in March 1980. (High Foshee / NRHP)

According to documents filed with the National Register of Historic Places, the church is one of three important area churches:

Three early churches—First German Methodist Episcopal, 218 South Clay Street; St. John’s German Methodist Episcopal, 221 South Hancock; and Shelby Street Methodist Episcopal, 216 South Shelby—are rare Louisville examples of vernacular Greek Revival, ecclesiastical architecture.

According to a real estate listing for the property, the church contains a total of 6,184 square feet—3,279 square feet on the first floor and 2,905 square feet on the second including the choir loft.

According to Otts, the couple paid $500,000 for the building under a new company called The Holy Goat LLC, a reference to the adjacent Nanny Goat Strut Alley. Exact details on what the new owners plan for the building remain scant, but we’ll be sure to keep a close watch on this one.

[Top image by Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk.]
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Branden Klayko

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

2 COMMENTS

  1. “Zions Church, the first German Methodist Episcopal church founded. Built 1842 and enlarged 1859”

  2. Gemeinde is parish, and the word for founded is not present in the text. The plaque reads:

    Zion’s Church
    The First German
    Methodist Episcopal
    Parish. Built A.D. 1843
    and Enlarged
    A.D. 1859

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