Converting old churches into residential spaces, like St. Augustine and St. Vincent De Paul, is becoming increasingly popular. Churches’ architectural flourishes—open floor-plans, exposed brick, vaulted ceilings, and arched windows—often draw buyers of means who are looking for a residential alternative to ubiquitous cookie-cutter developments.
While this type of sacred-to-secular conversion may be a tough pill for former members to swallow, many are even less satisfied with the alternatives. A large number of abandoned churches have become wineries or breweries or bars. Others have been converted into hotels, bed and breakfasts, and AirBNBs. A few have been transformed into entertainment venues, such as an indoor playground for children, a laser-tag arena, or a skate park.
When St. Francis de Sales Church in Troy, New York closed in 2009, it was converted into a fraternity house for the Phi Sigma Kappa chapter at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A communal symbol that once served as a beacon of hope and welcome now seems like little more than an emblem of American youthful superficiality. Imagine the emotional impact of driving past the place of your mother’s baptism only to see frat boys stumbling down the front steps.