A church to call home

The former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Lake Church looks pretty much the same from the outside, but the inside has changed massively since last fall.

Owner Dan Majewski converted the 1884 church into a modern single-family home, which went on sale Thursday, June 2 with a list price of $699,900.

The soaring ceiling, decorative columns, traditional chandeliers and stunning stained glass windows are intact, and several benches have been repainted and used to create a dining area in this open concept home.

The decorative painting on the ceiling and the wall where the altar once stood and the Ave Maria icon have been preserved.

“I try to keep as much here as possible,” Majewski said. “That is the character of the building.

“People asked me if I would tear this down. I said, ‘No, why?’”

Majewski’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.

City Chairman Tom Winker said during Monday’s board meeting: “It’s absolutely beautiful in there. Very beautiful. Just having that kind of vision for what he had for it is incredible.”

And he noted that the building is now back on the tax lists.

“It’s very unusual,” he said.

Majewski said that over the months he’s been working on the former church building, a number of people stopped by to take a look at the changes.

He told Winker he’ll be hosting an open house so people can check out the renovations, but no date has been set yet.

“That’s probably not going to happen for a few weeks,” Majewski said.

He is still putting the finishing touches on the building and his new attached three car garage under construction on the north side of the church.

“There’s still a bit of work to be done,” Majewski said. “I don’t think people will have the vision until it’s all done.”

St. Mary’s Church closed in August 2018, and the building was put on the market last fall.

Majewski, who is a licensed contractor and real estate agent, said he jumped at the chance to renovate the building.

It is the second church he has converted into a family home.

“It could be my niche market,” he said.

The church is the seventh plot he flipped and the second church. The first in Big Bend is Majewski’s home.

During the pandemic, he said he looked for homes to flip but found the market limited.

After creating his home, he was excited to buy another church.

And it seems that St. Mary’s Building came naturally to Majewski, considering he, like so many others in Belgium, has Luxembourg roots.

So, eight months ago, he bought the 5,078-square-foot Lake Church building for $125,000 and got to work.

But first he gave the congregation a chance to take out the pews, altars, and anything else they wanted.

Majewski quickly decided on an open concept for the house, realizing that it would be much easier to implement in a building such as a former church than in an apartment building.

“A church is structurally sound,” he said, unlike a house where you may have to brace the structure to open the walls.

“Here we built walls,” he said.

A long wall 14 feet high was built along the south side of the nave to create enclosed areas for four of the five bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Although the wall does not reach the ceiling, it separates the rooms.

On the north side of the building opposite the wall is the large hall, which offers plenty of space for the modern kitchen, dining and living area.

The choir offers a seating area and leads to the master suite. The master bedroom is 400 square meters with a spacious bathroom clad in marble and a 300 square meter walk-in closet, created from the space where priests once kept their robes, the built-in closets and chests of drawers in beautifully stained wood.

There is also 200 square feet of storage above the walk-in closet.

The confessionals remain, one has been repurposed as a pantry in the kitchen and the other as a walk-in closet in a bedroom.

The choir loft at the west end of the building remains and overlooks the living areas of the house.

Hidden behind a wall is a narrow passageway that leads to “Narnia,” Majewski said, walking to a small room with fieldstone walls and a majestic stained-glass window, furnished with a coffee maker and a small table and chairs. A ladder leads to the bell tower.

The home has a modern feel with its black and white color palette, but the 5 x 12 foot stained glass windows and decorative painted ceiling add pops of color.

Majewski added acoustic panels to keep some of the sound from bouncing off the 36-foot ceilings, an effort that will be amplified once the home is furnished.

And while some might look at the high ceilings and think high heating bills, Majewski said gas bills dropped significantly when he replaced the boiler system with two efficient stoves and air conditioning.

The electrical and plumbing systems are also new, he noted.

“Everything is new here,” he says.

He is working on landscaping the property by creating a 5-foot barrier of stones and boulders against Highway D and a grassy area.

The house, he said, isn’t for everyone—but it doesn’t have to be either.

“It takes a specific family, a specific person,” Majewski said. “It should attract a large family.

“If you are looking for a fairly large home, all new, on 1-1/2 acres near Lake Michigan, this might be it.”

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