(photo from gjfreepress.com)
As a kid I can remember walking in through the front steps every Sunday. To the left of the doors was a beautiful old wooden pew. Above the pew just a sample of the stunning stained glass that was featured throughout the iconic building. Most Sundays our family would sit in the balcony. We sat on what can only be described as the most uncomfortable wood theater seats imaginable. I loved those seats. If you picked the right one you could move your legs up and down through service and listen to it squeak. From the balcony you could look to the left as the light streamed through the many panes of stained glass. Below you could watch the other church kids coloring on bulletins or maybe even in the hymnals or bibles in the pew backs. To the right was the most wonderful pipe organ. Again, not something you appreciate until you get older. The notes that came out of those big pipes were simply beautiful. As a musical sort of kid it was always a special treat when the Harpsichord was played! Many Sundays I sat in those squeaky wood seats, listened to the Organist and tried my best to stay awake through the sermons.
Now after the service was when the real fun began. My dad was very involved in the church. From the bell choir to being a deacon we were the church family. As he was doing his deaconly duties my sisters and I along with the other "church kids" went exploring. Do you see the dome on the top of the building. If you knew where you were going you could go through the back rooms, up a rickety roped off set of stairs all the way to the top of the dome. It was AMAZING! There were many, many rooms in that building that I went in that I'm fairly confident we definitely weren't supposed to be in!
Eventually the Presbyterian Church built a shiny new building with no secret rooms or hidden stairways, no creaky wooden theater seats. The grand dame became a wedding and event hall and finally ended up sitting vacant. No pitter patter of little patent leather shoes running through the halls, no pipe organ filling the sanctuary with divine songs.
In August 2011 my then fiance, now husband and I were having engagement pictures taken and much to my surprise the photographer suggested White Hall! My old stomping grounds!
Thank God we did it, just a month later on September 15, 2011 she went up in flames. Devastating flames.
(photo courtesy of The Daily Sentinel)
Heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking.
Again, she sat empty, half burned, chain link fence surrounding the lot. About 2 years after the fire they demolished the sanctuary part of the building. And there she continued to sit until this past week when the demolished the rest of the building.
I received an email this morning from a photographer that took a final picture of her just before the finished demolition. I found beauty in the broken stained glass, the different levels of doors and windows smiling at the memories of running through the halls. Even the graffiti brings beauty to the picture. The old radiator that is in the middle of the picture is so cool! It made me smile and it actually made me cry.
As a real estate agent with a heart for infill development projects I look forward to the next phase of life for the 600 block of White Avenue.
As for the grand dame... she will be missed. My memories of her are held dear.