The Church @117 Breathes New Life Into Historic Building.

by | Jan 2023

STANDING TALL and regal amongst the background of downtown Manchester is the event venue, The Church @117. The building’s historic brick and architecture tell a story of rich history. Over the years, the building has served many purposes. It has served as a church, municipal offices, and even the city’s general sessions court for some time. But in all of its various uses, the building has always served as a place for the community.

Today, the venue serves as a new hub for the community. The Church @117 hosts family reunions, weddings, engagement parties, birthday celebrations, and much more. As an event space, owner Steve West works to keep the building’s history alive while creating new uses for a unique space.

STUMBLING UPON AN OLD FRIEND

As a child, West can remember walking over to the building at 117 East Fort Street in search of a book to read.

“When I was a kid, there was a room on the west side that was the Manchester Coffee County Library,” he explained. “I went there in the 60s until the junior high was built, and we had a library. But, before that, it’s where we went to get our library books.”

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

Along with the library, West said he remembers the building serving several purposes.

“It was the East Fort Street Church of Christ till 1961, and then it moved over and became the East Main Street Church of Christ,” he said. “In the 60s and 70s, it was the General Sessions Court, I believe. It also served as offices for the county in the 80s.”

While visiting his mother on a trip back home to Manchester, they drove by the old building.

“I was looking to invest in a historical building, and I started looking around. I pulled up in front of the building with my mother and told her I would sure like to have that church. And to my pleasant surprise, it showed up for sale a couple of weeks later.”

West purchased the building in hopes of reviving it and bringing a unique venue to the area.

“Going back to my class reunions, we dealt with a limited number of places to have it,” he explained. “I felt that it could bring another option for event space. I also love old buildings— particularly old schools and churches. So when the opportunity came up, I jumped on it. In 2016, we got into renovating and opened up in January 2017.”

Old meets new

While West planned to bring a unique vibe to the historical building, he planned to preserve what he could of the church.

“We worked to get the main room back as close as it could be to its original state,” he said. “There was a big floor-to-ceiling right down the middle of the room covered with paneling, which covered the stained glass windows on the east side. Above a dropped ceiling, I found a light fixture from the church [that] I moved to the foyer. The etched windows were painted black, so it was a tedious task to get all of that removed and the windows restored. I had to get all of that scraped off and cleaned off. It was quite a bit of work. The whole renovation process took about a year.”

West, who has enjoyed a long tenure in entertainment and the arts, has added his touch to the building, bringing additional interest to the space.

“Over the years, I’ve done so many interesting things—like my time as a concert promoter for many years,” he said. “I had a lot of concert posters and band posters from the 80s and 90s, along with many autographed items. People who visit the church seem to get a kick out of seeing these posters. There is also artwork on display that visitors enjoy. As for the building, visitors love the hardwood floors and the stained glass windows. It’s so cool in the evenings when the sun goes down, and the stained glass takes on different personalities. It’s been great to come back home and renovate such a historical place.”

West said he plans to continue to embrace the rich heritage and legacy of the building’s beginnings while serving as a unique venue for hosting family gatherings and celebrations of all types. For more information on The Church @117, contact West at (615) 804-6087 or email at thechurchat117@mindspring.com.GN

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