Original view of the church with its steeple
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The most talked about condo project in town has become less of a mystery as the Broken Sidewalk goes inside to see just what developers have in store for the historic Marcus Lindsey Memorial M. E. Church. Last we knew, retail plans had fallen through and the 10,000 square foot property was back on the market listed around $900,000. Now, with the blessing of the Butchertown neighborhood review, developers Pip Pullen and Susan Swope are moving the project forward with potentially 4 or 5 units in the building.

We learned the current church building was actually built in phases. The oldest portion sits directly east of the more articulated main sanctuary. It becomes evident there was a later addition as the eastern portion displays more austere detailing and simpler roof lines. A stone above the main entrance reads 1899, but the original half is believed to be 11 or 12 years older. The church was also the original home to the Wesley House in 1909 before it moved one block north in Butchertown and finally to Preston Highway. As you can see in the above view, the church also at one point had a steeple on the corner of Main Street and Shelby Street. It’s long gone now, and little is known of its disappearance.

Two windows that had previously disappeared have now been located, however. The small stained glass windows are the only other missing portion of the building and will replace the plywood currently holding their place on the Shelby Street facade.

Inside the main sanctuary
Inside the main sanctuary. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

The concept for converting the church to condos was born of a similar project the developers experienced in London. Pip Pullen was amazed by the intricacy and quality of the spaces an abandoned church offered and felt he could recreate the effect in Louisville. To bring the project to reality, Pullen and Swope enlisted Jeff Rawlins of Architectural Artisans to craft the building’s large volumes into intricate yet respectful residential spaces.

The main design concept is to reuse as much of the church as possible and to add contemporary additions that are subtle and grounded. The renovation is not meant to overwhelm the original architecture. Pullen wants the person on the sidewalk to “see a church, but know its not a church.” Along Main Street, outdoor private spaces for the condos could be tucked behind simple knee walls or glass doors could lead to each unit. Plans are still in the schematic phase and new ideas for the building are constantly emerging.

The main sanctuary will likely contain 2 or 3 units. The space is so grand, Pullen wants several people to call it home as opposed to one giant condo, but is open to whatever might come along, be it one or several condos or even retail space.  In the eastern half of the church, another condo and an apartment will each have their own entrances from the street. The building lends itself to a sort of townhouse feel as each new residence will have its own private entrance. Above all, the team wants to make this a quality project with ‘cool’ and modern residences. Pip and Susan believe so much in the idea, they plan to call the finished project home themselves.

Parking has always been a major concern for the property, especially since it fills up its entire site. A creative solution allows for four spots to be created inside the eastern half of the structure. A door will be installed directly below two windows (without stained glass) utilizing the existing Gothic arches to blend with the historic facade. Rawlins noted this was an opportunity to unobtrusively add interest to the building with the creative door. This proves to be a most elegant solution for incorporating parking into the project.

Additional space will be created in the church by constructing new lofted areas in the soaring spaces. Rawlins wants to ensure that the massive stained glass windows in the main sanctuary are enjoyed to their full potential and has devised a method to to create a mezzanine pulled away from the exterior walls. This allows dramatic ceiling heights and minimal alteration of the original architecture.

Overall, it takes a little creativity to imagine such an out-of-the-box project, but Pullen, Swope, and Rawlins appear to have a great solution in mind. Considering the church was offered for free to a builder several years ago and rejected, filling up an abandoned building on the border of two of Louisville’s most creative neighborhoods (Butchertown and the East Village) is sure to stabilize yet another important corner of Main Street.

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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

15 COMMENTS

  1. I am glad to see that this project is out of the bag, and it will be a welcomed asset to Butchertown! I think that it is great that the neighborhood association is open to properly integrating new development with the existing charm and feel of the area. Pip and Susan have a grand plan for a grand structure, and we will all be watching in anticipation of its completion!

  2. This is a project that will help define the Butchertown / E. Main and E. Market Ccrridor. We need creative, interesting and unique residents and businesses to occupy space here and embrace their selfsame individuality.

  3. My grandfather was caretaker for the church for more years than I can count.I am 62.I would go as a little girl and help my grandpa clean the church.My mom and dad grew up in this church.My grandparents grew up in it too.Does anyone know where I can find the church records and history.This building was a part of my history and life as a child.My ggggranndfather was one of the first circuit riders for the Methodist church.Any help would be appreciated.Glad it is not being torn down

  4. Msl Orr:

    We hope to have ownership of the church on Friday, at which point you’re welcome to be our first official guest.

    Susan, my partner, has managed to generate a veritable library of information about the place and she’d be happy to share it. There is, in fact, a stained-glass window with “Orr” on it; presumably a relative!

    Please don’t hesitate to contact us. My email is ppullen@anglo-american.us

  5. Ms. Orr,

    Fascinating information regarding your relatives and their history with the Marcus Lindsey M.E. Church. I might suggest that you contact the General Commission of Archives and History for the United Methodist Church. You can visit their web site at http://tinyurl.com/9nb256

    Or,

    Email: gcah@gcah.org
    Phone: 973-408-3189

    GCAH
    36 Madison Ave.
    POBox 127
    Madison, NJ 07940

    I’m hoping to do some research myself, so perhaps we can stay in touch on our findings!

  6. Pip and Susan,
    Thanks for the info.I will let you know what I find out and stay in touch.
    Thanks a lot.This is really exciting
    Carol

  7. East Main Street is the entry into downtown for many in the city, so it's important to have the entire stretch nice and vibrant. Pip and Susan's project can only help.

  8. I’ve only lived in Louisville for six years. I live not far from the church and drive past it almost daily. In the short time I’ve been here I’ve watched the church deteriorate and watched the efforts of the current owner to make it better. Kudos to Pip and Susan for their plans. What a fabulous idea! I can’t wait to see the finished product. I know it will add to the neighborhood.

  9. I recently renovated and live in a house on the block of Washington St directly behind the church (821). I am very excited to see this happen. Mr Rawlins was the architect for mY reno and he will do a fantastic job. The area is great and needs projects like these to continue to boost it as an urban and hip place to live! Very cool!

  10. My father, George C. Strawbridge was the custodian of Marcus Lindsey for many years. As a matter of fact, I believe that they have a stained glass window in his honor in the Sunday School room which would be on the North side of the church. I attended the church as a child and throughout grade school and high school.
    I would be curious to know if the stained glass window still exists.
    I now live in Houston, Texas and Carol Orr is my niece.
    Thank you
    R.A.S.

  11. Robert,

    Thanks for posting your comment. How interesting about your father! I LOVE hearing the history of our church building. I remember Carol touching base some months back. Pip and I will definitely check the Sunday School room and look for your father’s name. I’ll take a photo for you!

    Susan Swope

  12. I am looking for records from the church as well.

    The families were Rev. William A. Schruff, Frederick Schruff, William Casler, and Scheffel Families.

    Hopefully I can locate some info on these people.

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