Did it Herself: Renovating an Old Chapel

By: Myryah Irby , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Non Residential Buildings, In The News

In 2001 the New York Times ran an article about home improvement websites that were most helpful to the DIY set. Old House Web was one of the sites featured prominently in the piece. Last week I wrote about the growing trend of women renovators. I thought it would be fun to revisit one of the women who was featured in the NYT article, to see what she’s up to now, eight years later.

Cindy Bank’s, then an active member of the Old House Web forum community, was in the process of renovating a 1904 Victorian house in Portland, Oregon and was in dire need of motivation. She had previously restored two old houses, but this one was more of a challenge. Falling plaster, broken windows, an old furnace and a wet basement were a few of the problems she needed to tackle. She’d found encouragement among her fellow old house lovers who frequented the Old House forums. They cheered her on and one year later she reported that she was still knocking down walls and replacing floors and was at that time debating about when to pull down the house’s asbestos siding.

A number of women interviewed for the New York Time’s article, “Providing Fixer-Uppers With Tips, Tools and T.L.C.,” admitted to feeling more welcome online in forums like the one on Old House Web than they did in lumberyards and hardware stores. In fact, one member of the Old House Web forum community, Nicki Hendrix, said she had gone into hardware stores and been asked, “Where’s your husband?”

But that was then…

As I argued in my post last week, these days women are not only more serious about renovating on their own, they are also taken more seriously. I was curious about what had happened to Cindy Banks so I did a little googling and was delighted to learn that she has recently renovated an historic chapel

Brooks Hill Historic Church

Brooks Hill Historic Church

The church is located about 20 miles from downtown Portland, Oregon. It was built in 1931 and was at that time attended by the community members who had founded and farmed the area, mostly Swiss, German and Russian immigrants. From what I could see in the photos on her site, Cindy’s done a wonderful job of restoring the place. She also admits that there is plenty left to do, such as restoring the original floors in the sanctuary, and removing the paint and restoring the original wood in the pews. The church is now used for community events, weddings and the performing arts. In fact, one of the musicians who performs there is Cindy Banks.

I’m not sure if Cindy still visits the Old House forums on a regular basis, but I want to send her a little encouragement as she continues to follow her passion of renovating old buildings. Cindy, if you come across this blog post, congratulations on restoring yet another beautiful old building. And if you ever need motivation, the Old House Web will be here waiting.


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  1. 6 Responses  to “Did it Herself: Renovating an Old Chapel”

  2. Sharon
    Sep 10, 2016
    And one other note...I want to live in it. I went to Church there when I was growing up. My Daddy and I were baptized on the same day and my wedding was held there. So I have lots of good memories.
  3. sharon
    Sep 10, 2016
    I'm in the process of renovating a small country Church built in the late 1800's. Was used as a Church until 1992. I'm on a limited budget so would love any advice. The Baptismal is under the podium. Due to the heaviness...the back wall is pulling away from the floor. It's a very simple Church and I want to leave as open as possible. No walls except the necessary ones!! Getting electricity updated and back on next week. I ask myself...am I crazy!!! Or can I really do it? Hope to hear from someone..anyone..Thanks.
  4. Aug 29, 2011
    Then i must say Cindy bank is a genius. if that's your passion Cindy please continue to help other people. You have a great talent. Thanks!
  5. jim
    Aug 29, 2011
    I would love to see pictures. I recently bought a church to renovate. If you have suggestions of things to do, or not to do, email me. Thanks!
  6. Lucy
    Aug 29, 2011
    Yeah, I'm a big fan of renovating churches for other purposes. My husband bought an old church that he used as his photography studio for about 5 years. The only major renovations he made were adding a huge skylight (the space was really dark beforehand) and remodeling the men's and women's bathroom. When he eventually moved in to the space and used it as his residence, he added a shower in the backyard. This worked out OK since it was in sunny California and the backyard was surrounded by thick bamboo, but would not have been a good solution in the midwest or east coast. He eventually sold the church to a group of Buddhists, and now it is once again a place of worship.
  7. Kerry Hoffman
    Aug 29, 2011
    I'd love to renovate a church for another purpose. Big fan of adaptive reuse and I've seen some great examples of churches that have been renovated for a dif purpose. One woman posted an image of a church she'd like to turn into a coffee shop -- she says she'd name it Church and if people are late to work they could just say to their boss, "Sorry, I was at Church."