Former Catholic Church undergoes transformation to a residence

Steva Dooley

When Curtis and Nicole Lindgren and their partners, Nicole’s parents, Don and Lynne Davies, first looked at the former Catholic Church, their interest was to make it into a really nice rental. They knew from the start it was going to take some major remodeling, but they liked the building, its setting and the interior. It had some plusses, but it had some big challenges too.

“The former owner had chosen a wonderful color palette and left extra paint for us,” said Lynne Davies. “That cut down on the amount of painting we had to do. That was a big victory.”

The building was built over 100 years ago in 1909. For most of its life, it was a Catholic Church, but became an office for a trucking company when the congregation could no longer sustain it and joined with the Catholic congregation in Greybull. When the trucking company relocated, the Lindgrens and Davies took the opportunity to convert it into a rental residence. 

The remodel was surprisingly quick, taking only 2 months to complete, but there were some big challenges to overcome during that time. 

“The first challenge was shoring up the floor joists and putting plumbing under the building. Lynne said. “The crawl space is less than three feet and did cause some wiggling and frustration to complete.” 

Because the building was constructed so long ago, it has lathe and plaster walls, which are a challenge to work with, They can be hard to remove and then have to be replaced with sheetrock. The remodelers opted to not remove them, but to work around it. 

“The bottom trim was about 10 inches tall,” said Nicole. “It left a kind of uneven part at the bottom when we replaced them with shorter trim boards, but it doesn’t look bad, it gives it character. We also hoped to keep the wood floors, but found after removing the old carpet that the floors were not hardwood, so we had to go back with carpet.”

Moving the organ from the loft above the entrance door was also a big challenge. It had to be taken down a very steep and narrow stairway, but once that was done, the loft could be dismantled and the wood used to trim out the area above the door and around the windows. 

The original windows in the building were stained glass, the side windows were a yellow glass and the ones on each side of the front entrance are beautiful pictures. 

“We opted to keep the colorful windows on the front of the building,” Lynne said. “The yellow ones to the outside, we replaced with clear glass. On the other side, an addition had been added and we left the stained glass windows there rather than remove them and make it a blank wall. It just seemed to be the right thing to do. Just like keeping the closets and cupboards in the addition, the places where the priest kept his vestments and such. We kept all of those, not in their original places perhaps, but they are still in the building. It seems to give the building a feeling of being whole.”

A door on one side of the kitchen they put in has an arched top, so when they built the wall on the other side of the kitchen they built the door the same. They put a loft over the kitchen that entailed supporting beams and making sure it was all done right. 

“Our contractor was awesome,” both Davies and Lindgren agreed. “Every night, we had a meeting and he would let us know what he needed for the next step of the project. On Friday evenings, he gave us our jobs for the weekend so everything was ready for him to start on Monday morning. We put a lot of ourselves into this project.”

And that is why when it came to finding a renter, they spent more time than usual screening the applicants. 

“We have fixed several houses, but never have we felt the connection we feel to this house. We knew that we had to find someone special to live in it,” Lynne said. “I think we succeeded. The renters love the house and even though there are still some things that need to be finished outside, they don’t mind and are enjoying living in a house with stained glass windows and cupboards that used to hold vestments.”