A truly amazing thing is currently happening at the corner of Penn Avenue and Sherman Place in the Sherman’s Estate area of Mansfield. And, even in this time of intense uncertainty, something for which the future was anything but certain is now springing back to life and to a renewed sense of purpose.
When the former St. Matthew Lutheran Church was purchased earlier this year, it came into the hands of a family with a close connection to the story of both the building and the congregation. Starting on February 7, it has been the focus of intense work.
“Preservation is the biggest part,” James Dollish shared with 1812Blockhouse on Tuesday afternoon. Dollish explained that he couldn’t bear to see stained glass or pews removed and sold with the building possibly demolished in the process if it landed in other hands.
Memories of the church are important to Dollish. “It is no longer consecrated, but it is still holy space to me,” he explained.
The focus of the work is to return the sanctuary to much of its original purpose, serving as a venue for weddings and funerals — as well as for community functions. The sanctuary is largely ready, and the large basement area is being worked on now.
Dollish described an exhaustive initial cleaning and stabilization effort, much of it shared via text and video posts in a Facebook Group that currently has 70 members. “I spent the first two and a half weeks scrubbing the sanctuary,” he said, “and used ten cans of wax.”
Other work to date has involved painting, patching holes, and repainting. One project revealed a wonderful ceramic floor in a foyer — after two weeks of work with a razor knife.
Dollish has also been working on repairing leaks caused by faulty repairs. “The last owners,” he said, referring to the interim owners after the congregation closed its doors, “apparently watched the wrong YouTube video.”
The current public health crisis has had some impact. A planned initial art show in March, for instance, had to be cancelled — but did have 22 artists lined up to exhibit in a beautiful space.
Speaking of the beauty of the building, we share below photos which we took during this past summer’s tour (click any for a larger image). That story can be found here, and a link to our Landmarks of Mansfield post on Saint Matthew’s can be found in that story.
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