Breathing new life into old churches

Updated 10:53 AM ET, Wed December 11, 2013
01 repurposed churches01 repurposed churches
1 of 10
Alyn Carlson of Westport, Massachusetts, remodeled this nondenominational church from the early 20th century into a 4,000-square-foot home where she and her husband raised three children. See how Carlson and others are adapting religious buildings for new uses. Courtesy Paul Clancy
When you live in an old building, there is always something to fix, Carlson said, like caring for an "elderly relative." Courtesy Paul Clancy
Much to the delight of her children and grandchildren, Carlson installed a fireman pole in the attached home that used to be a Sunday school. Courtesy Paul Clancy
Pableaux Johnson converted this 1,400-square-foot Methodist church built in 1904 into a loft home. The church in St. Martinville, Louisiana, was on the brink of being torn down when Johnson bought it. Courtesy Pableaux Johnson
Johnson installed the kitchen in the altar and a breakfast nook made from old pews in the church. Courtesy Pableaux Johnson
With the help of friends, Johnson built the loft that became the master bedroom. Courtesy Pableaux Johnson
Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia is home to the Earth Center, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph dedicated to environmental research and education. Its office is in a former chapel known as the House of Loreto, a replica of the original House of Loreto, which, according to tradition, is the first home where baby Jesus lived with the Virgin Mary and Joseph. Lisa Mixon/Chestnut Hill College
Chestnut Hill College's House of Loreto was built in 1897 to house a relic from the original pilgrimage site in Italy. No one used it until the school finished renovating it in 2010 to house the Earth Center. The building now boasts several eco-friendly features that make it a model for green initiatives, including a geothermal well for heating and cooling and stormwater gardens. Lisa Mixon/Chestnut Hill College
The Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, Netherlands, is a 13th-century Dominican church that was converted into a bookstore that opened in 2007. It has won architectural awards and is considered by many visitors to be "the world's coolest bookstore," in the words of iReporter Thai Dang. Courtesy Thai Dang
Residents of New York' City's Chelsea neighborhood have seen the Church of the Holy Communion go through numerous phases. Built in the mid-19th century, the Gothic Revival cathedral has been reused as a community center, a drug rehab clinic and the Limelight nightclub, perhaps its most famous identity. The name stuck even after the club closed in 2007 and reopened in 2010 as a mixed-use retail market. "Although it still looks like a gothic church on the outside," iReporter Marjorie Zien said, "the space has been repurposed for various uses over the years." Rob Loud/Getty Images