Local Woman Resurrects Historic East Hills Church

PRESS RELEASE — Restoration of a historic architectural structure in the East Hills neighborhood will reach another milestone on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.  That’s when a crane operator will hoist a new cupola atop the former church at the northeast corner of Diamond and Hermitage streets in southeast Grand Rapids.  

The condemned building had been vacant for several years when East Hills resident Carol Moore and Bill Roelofs formed Hermitage Partners LLC in late 2017 to purchase and restore the property.  After replacing the leaking roof—a critical action to prevent further damage to the deteriorating building—Moore, Roelofs and crews of local contractors began methodically addressing other exterior issues, including meticulous restoration of the crumbling foundation, rotted siding, the leaking steeple, and the dilapidated cupola.  

Grand River Builders, a Grand Rapids firm noted for its historic restorations of dozens of institutional and residential structures, including many local churches, has been working on the project since last fall. The most visible evidence of their work includes new siding, steeple restoration and copper elements.

The dramatic change in the building exterior, including fresh paint on the parsonage attached to the church, has drawn the attention of neighbors and passersby.  They often stop to thank Moore for her work in transforming what had become a blighted eyesore.  The project has inspired unsolicited contributions ranging from financial support to neighbors helping with interior demolition. The 144-year-old wood frame church has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1980, a recognition of its historic architecture, which includes a towering steeple and distinctive stained glass windows, and its history.  It has been home to congregations reflecting the changing demographics of its neighborhood over the decades.  Built by the Third Reformed Church, a Dutch immigrant congregation, it was subsequently occupied by the primarily African American Church of God in Christ, followed by the Spanish-speaking Iglesia Resurreccion y Vida.  

Moore’s role in the project ranges from financing the purchase and restoration costs to date to hands-on work including exterior scraping and painting and interior demolition.  She expects that completing the restoration could take another three years or more. 

What drew Moore to take on this monumental challenge?  She’s passionate about historic buildings, having restored eight residential and commercial buildings on and near Wealthy Street SE.  She also played a critical role in saving the Wealthy Theatre from demolition and the multi-year project of restoring the theater.  Moore says her appreciation for historic architecture is a result of growing up in Savannah, GA, surrounded by the city’s beautiful historic structures.

Moore is also passionate about the arts; hence, her vision for the church as a thriving community hub providing opportunities for access to and involvement in the arts, as well as serving as a community gathering place.  To make that vision a reality, she hopes to partner with an existing nonprofit or, if necessary, establish a new nonprofit, to operate the structure as an art center. 

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