L arry Carman thought he was buying a vacation home. Instead, he ended up with the oldest church in Larry (1)Washington County.

The Middle Granville resident, a Manchester Newspapers’ employee, attended Washington County’s tax auction last June intending to purchase a second home on Cossayuna Lake for he and his wife, Linda. By the time he arrived, however, the property the couple was eyeing was no longer available.

But another property, one much closer to his home, was.

Instead of a lake-front home, Carman ended up purchasing the First Church of Granville.

“It was a matter of convenience; I live across the street,” said Carman, who purchased the property for $20,000. “The idea was the cottage might make a nice house for our son someday.”

According to a historical marker located near the northeast corner of the building, the church was formed in 1782, two years after Granville was founded and a year before the signing of the Treaty of Paris officially brought the American Revolution to an end. The actual structure itself is believed to have been built between 1789 and 1793.

During the ensuing 233 years the church has served a number of congregations. But in the 1980s the church fell into disrepair and was named one of the most endangered churches in Washington County in 1992.

In the fall of that year, Rev. Stephen Stewart and his Church of the Nations congregation took over the building and two years later began an ambitious effort to restore the structure.

Volunteers dug and built a full basement, repaired windows, painted the interior, hung insulation and new fixtures, built a new altar, cleaned the adjacent meeting house and did some landscaping around the church’s exterior.

Their efforts were recognized by the Washington County Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
Services continued to be held in the one-room church until about a decade ago.

In 2010 the property was purchased by a couple who hoped to use the church to film a television pilot that included puppets and social commentary.

But the couple owned the property for only 13 months before it was sold and fell into arrears.

The previous owners removed the pews from the church and ripped out an altar, leaving a massive hole from the first floor clear to the basement. Heating ducts were also stripped from the building.

One of Carman’s first tasks was evicting a flock of pigeons that was using the church as their personal roost. He also had a wall partition erected in the church to prevent anyone from falling into the basement.

But he and Linda concentrated most of their efforts renovating the adjoining vestry.

“It’s been basic stuff, just trying to button it up,” Carman said. “We’ve put in new windows, new doors and some kitchen cabinets.”

Throughout the process, Carman said he’s gained an appreciation for the church’s architecture and the materials used in its construction.

“The church has got all the original timbers,” Carman said.

Those timbers are 30 inches and diameter and were cut from old growth service.

“They’re all hand hewn,” Carman said.

A handful of the stain glass windows are also believed to be original, although they were restored at one point.

While the meeting house will eventually become a cottage for the Carmans’ son, the church is expected to become Janice’s House of Hope, a charitable organization that helps fire victims.

Carman said the organization hopes to begin work on the building and open operations when the weather warms.

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