Indiana Landmarks, the state's leading historic preservation organization, is looking for someone with creativity, vision and an inclination toward very quiet neighbors to purchase and renovate the Palmyra Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
The church, located at 6957 Palmyra Road just outside Vincennes, sits directly adjacent to a small, abandoned cemetery.
But Tommy Kleckner, director of the Western Regional Office of Indiana Landmarks, thinks that’s a selling point for many people.
He recalls a conversation with members of the Presbytery during purchasing negotiations of the church.
“They were concerned nobody would buy it because of the cemetery right next to it,” Kleckner said. “They could hardly believe it when I told them that it’s a selling point.
“Quiet neighbors,” he chuckled.
The nonprofit Indiana Landmarks organization saved the church building from imminent demolition and is taking a loss on the sale because they feel the site is worth saving.
“We can’t save them all, but architecturally this church is wonderful,” Kleckner said. “We walked into the sanctuary and saw that beautiful ceiling and rural setting, and we just couldn’t lose this one.”
For a rural church, Kleckner says “the building has really high style.”
The brick, Gothic-Revival church was designed by local architect J.W. Gaddis, and it retains many of its original, ornate features, including limestone accents and decorative metal finials. The steeple even houses the original bell.
A brief history, written in 1975 by congregants Avis Burnett and Marie Powell, says the church was founded in 1824 by a small group of friends who gathered to worship in the home of William Raper, located just outside of Fritchton.
In 1892 they constructed the church building that stands today on what was formerly Raper’s land.
The congregation spent decades in the building before uniting with Bethany Presbyterian Church in 1975, as average attendance was rarely over 20 members.
By all accounts, Palmyra Cumberland Presbyterian hasn’t hosted a congregation in more than 30 years, and as such the building has fallen into serious disrepair.
But both Kleckner and local Realtor Heath Klein feel the right buyer is certainly out there.
“Right now, people across the U.S., including Indiana, are really interested in unconventional housing,” Klein said. “People are buying everything from old churches to barns.”
In fact, the Palmyra Cumberland Presbyterian Church isn't the only local church Klein has listed. Also for sale is a former church at 302 Hart St. Built in the early 1900s, according to the listing, it still has several of its original stained glass windows, beveled glass and sanctuary ceiling.
Up until recently, it was used by the parishioners of the Christian Science Church.
But these are just the kind of unique spaces in which some individuals find inspiration and comfort.
Louisville, Kentucky-based writer Kathleen Driskell’s 2015 book, “Next Door to the Dead,” was inspired entirely by such an experience.
When Driskell writes about going to visit her “neighbors,” she means the graves in the cemetery that sit next to the 165-year-old Kentucky church she and her husband converted into their home in 1994.
“It was horrible inside and out,” Driskell said.
Smiling, she recalls “the horsehair plaster walls, dreadful orange indoor-outdoor carpeting and a tiny men’s room.”
“Imagine dirty gas station bathrooms,” Driskell said.
But there were also “beautiful tall windows, big chocolate beams and the old Sunday School coat rack,” she said.
Driskell says she and her husband didn’t have much money, “but we did have a lot of imagination.”
Indiana Landmarks is hoping someone will find the same spirit of imagination to purchase and repurpose the old Palmyra Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which is on the market for just $27,500.
When asked why structures like the church are worth saving, Kleckner says, “by its very presence it conveys the history of it. The tangible link to our past is still there.”
Businesses, too, are also taking advantage of historic properties on the market at low prices. Evansville’s 1939 Greyhound station was preserved by Indiana Landmarks a few years ago and has since been revitalized and occupied by Bru Burger; with the original neon Greyhound sign glowing once again.
Locally, too, city and county-elected officials and community leaders are working together to transform the historic Pantheon Theatre at 428 Main St. into a shared workspace and small business incubator. That structure was once on Indiana Landmark's Top 10 Most Endangered List.
That project is expected to be complete by springtime.
David, Butch and Eric Niehaus transformed the New Moon Theater, 529 Main St., into an Old Chicago Pizza and Pasta.
There are a host of other projects that saved old buildings and put them to new use.
The Knox County Development Corp. is housed in the old The Hack & Simon Building, 1101 N. Third St., which opened in 1885 as the office for a local brewery.
Vincennes University has repurposed the old Ebner Ice Co. storage building on Chestnut Street into Ebner Hall, a residence hall and technology facility.
The Bierhaus Center, 328 N. Second St., a medical facility, started out its life as home to the the Bierhaus Brothers wholesale grocery business.
The nearby Medical Center of Vincennes, 406 N. First St., was originally the Vincennes Foundry and Machine Co., while what is now the Robert E. Green Activities Center was for the most part the Vincennes Water Supply Co.,