The story below is from our December/November 2015 issue. For the DIGITALLY ENHANCED VERSION, download our FREE iOS app or view our digital edition for FREE today!
The former 19th-century Baptist Church in Fincastle is now the home of Bob and Wendy Jones and the inspiration behind their annual holiday charity benefitting children and families in Botetourt County.
Driving—or better yet, walking through downtown Fincastle, you will see many historic buildings: the Botetourt County Court House, the Hayth Hotel, the Crowder House and the Old Saddler Shop, to name a few. Over the years, these structures have been repurposed as office spaces, museums and, in the case of the former Bolton Store, a popular wedding venue.
And right across the street is the old Fincastle Baptist Church, with its original bell tower and stained glass windows. Only it is no longer a working church. It is the private home of Wendy Jones and her husband Bob.
“Bob and I had been looking for a small church for weekend getaways that was located far enough away that if you forgot something you would not go back to retrieve it, but not so far away that you would never use it,” says Jones.
In 2006, when the congregation of Fincastle Baptist Church had outgrown its sanctuary, the historic building went up for auction. That’s when Jones learned that her husband was looking for more than just a weekend getaway.
“He told me he had always wanted to live in a church,” she says. “I thought to myself, we will put a bid in, get outbid, and I would not have dashed his dream.”
Fifteen minutes after putting in his bid, however, they received a phone call: They’d won the bid.
“Bob kissed me on the forehead and left the house,” she says. “It was a couple of weeks before things calmed down and I became resigned to the idea.”
They moved in April 2007, just in time to host their daughter’s wedding a month later.
Keeping the Peace
Converting a historic church into a functional family home was not without its challenges.
“Being your own contractor was a new experience for us,” says Jones. “We did not really know what Botetourt County Zoning wanted, but then again, we were converting a church to a home, so maybe they did not really either.”
It took three months for the couple to get the building permit, and they obtained the Certificate of Occupancy at the very last minute—the day they moved in. Paperwork and construction aside, one of the biggest challenges was deciding how exactly they would tackle turning the church into a home.
“I am lacking in the ability to visualize,” says Jones. “Going from Sunday School classrooms to home took a lot of graph paper and time.”
The classroom space behind the sanctuary, which was added to the building in the 1920s, is where the family did the most work. On the main floor, they created two bedrooms and an office, and gutted the original multi-stall bathroom into a full bath. In the basement are their kitchen and dining room space, and they converted the top floor into an open-concept master suite.