Architecture & Design

Four Repurposed Churches You Can Dine (Or Imbibe) In

A Portland bar is the latest in a string of venues to open in historic former churches.

the future location of Vena’s Fizz House bar
Photograph by Mary Jo Marquis
TEXT BY SARAH STEBBINS

From the April 2022 issue of Down East magazine

Before closing on their 1889 Portland church last year (above), Johanna and Steve Corman discovered a handwritten note in the deed prohibiting activities “not plainly taught by the express precept or approved example of the apostles of Jesus Christ.” Presumably, that would include the mixing of martinis and Moscow Mules in the building where, this spring, the Cormans plan to reopen their popular Vena’s Fizz House bar. After working with an attorney to neutralize the deed’s language, the couple is currently restoring the structure’s wood floors, stained glass, and steeple. Other local churches have also found new glory as restaurants and banquet halls. Here are a few we think are heavenly.

Agora Grand Event Center, Lewiston, Maine
Photograph by Russell Caron

Agora Grand Event Center, Lewiston

A pair of asymmetrical steeples — one soaring 220 feet — punctuated with elaborate arched windows distinguish Maine’s tallest structure. Designed in the neo-Gothic style by architect Patrick Keely (who also gave us Portland’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception), the 1890 former St. Patrick’s Church reportedly cost 6,250 ounces of gold to construct. Reimagined as a reception hall in 2016, the building boasts a bar crafted from salvaged organ components and a honeymoon suite beneath that skyscraping spire.

Trine Events at Grace, Portland, Maine
Photograph by Dan Marquis

Trine Events at Grace, Portland

The 1856 former Chestnut Street Church survived the 1866 Great Fire and abandonment in 2005. Entrepreneur Anne Rutherford, who operated Grace restaurant and now runs an events venue here, extensively restored one of the city’s last vestiges of Gothic Revival architecture, and its only intact building by prominent architect Charles Alexander. Blessed with (spireless) brick-and-brownstone twin towers, 27 lancet stained-glass windows, and soaring pine timbers, the structure (but not the business) is currently for sale and ready for another steward.

Robinhood Free Meetinghouse, Georgetown, Maine
Photograph by Ali Barrionuevo

Robinhood Free Meetinghouse, Georgetown

Moses Riggs allegedly plied his crew with tots of rum, or perhaps cider, during the construction of a new meetinghouse near Robinhood Cove. One of eight buildings erected by three generations of Riggses in the village then known as — what else? — Riggsville, the 1856 Greek Revival featured an unusual-for-its-time layout, with a vestry and school rooms on the first floor and worship space on the second. Now an events hall, the structure retains its original entablature, pilasters, pews, and hardwood floors.