Old churches finding new life in Louisville

Vacant churches being transformed across Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Times have changed when it comes to how people attend church.

Years ago, families would walk to their neighborhood church.

But today, there are larger churches, or fewer people attend.

This has led to empty churches in some neighborhoods. But instead of being torn down, some old churches are getting new life.

Since 1894, one church has stood on Highland Avenue. It’s where people would pray for blessings on their home. Soon, it will be home for Doug Jefferson.

“It’s kind of strange because all my friends are like ‘Oh, you’re in a church; that’s strange,’” Jefferson said. “But no, I thought it would be a little different. But I love the space and it has a great feel.”

Jefferson is planning to start renovating soon, adding a kitchen and bedrooms, and keeping the large, stained-glass windows in the sanctuary.

“Really, it’s all about the stained glass,” he said. “These windows are just beautiful. That’s when I walked in here (and) just fell in love with them.”

Jefferson is already using the back of the church for his company, Focal Point Productions. So his commute will literally be just steps away.

A former Lutheran church in the Deer Park neighborhood is getting new life as well. In the back, it’s been turned into luxury apartments. In the sanctuary, work is being done to convert the space into a Mexican barbecue restaurant.

“The landlord walked me through it and saw the organ and pipe,” said Aaron Diaz, the founder and owner of Noche Mexican BBQ. “How much is rent? And we have a parking lot? And on Bardstown Road? And can’t miss it? So very lucky to find it.”

Customers will begin to fill this space in just a few weeks, sampling one of the chef’s specialties, his flan.

“I want to respect the building,” Diaz said. “I want to respect the history here.”

It just so happens that the building will work well when they celebrate the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead in the fall.

There are a couple of other spots that have found success in former churches, including Holy Grale in the Highlands and Third Turn Brewery in Jeffersontown. It’s now serving up beers in a church built in 1878.

“I love that they’ve taken this old building and made great use of it in Downtown J-town,” customer Deborah Buttoni said.

Now this old church is welcoming people from the neighborhood, just as the congregation did so many years ago.

“It was almost like they were getting to have their church again in their space,” Third Turn owner Greg Hayden said.

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