"Churches worldwide are being given an afterlife by savvy entrepreneurs who CONVERT them to libraries, restaurants, schools, housing, bars, theaters...."
Cecile and I enjoyed lunch yesterday at our favorite Bell Tower Cafe. We had a Greek Salad and Egg White Persian Omellette consisting of 4 organic egg whites, basil, tomato and feta cheese, with a side of potatoes and toasted wheat bread. We chose this Saratoga bistro not only for its diverse menu and tasty food, but for its outside patio that is tucked away from street traffic. It boasts an idyllic shady garden, stone cherubs, potted plants, and an arbor with vines and flowers, and is dog friendly—an important feature as we had our son Jason’s dog Daisy with us. There is even a red phone booth—that in the age of cell phones has become a charming relic and time capsule of the past. The building itself is a relic of the past. It was built in 1895 and served as a Methodist Episcopal Church in 1896. It was also used by the Red Cross during WW l, as the city of Saratoga’s Town Hall, and was even a school. In 1924 the church became an art gallery and sometime later housed a bridal salon. The Bell Tower restaurant opened its doors in 2010 and is kept busy by loyal customers who enjoy the attentive, friendly staff and quick service.
The Bell Tower is one of a plethora of churches around the world whose clerical residents—for one reason or another have had to vacate the premises. Ironically, Savvy entrepreneurs have given these former places of worship an after life by converting them into clubs, restaurants, theaters, bars, and concert venues. Some examples: The Church Bar & Restaurant in Dublin, Ireland (photo) with remnants of a grand pipe organ on the second landing; a 700-year old Dominican Church converted to a bookstore in Maastricht, Netherlands; A Gothic church built in 1909, in San Francisco turned into housing; St. Sebastian Church in Germany was transformed into a kindergarten; The Church Brew Works in Pittsburg, PA, was once a Catholic Church in 1878. There is even a church in Santa Cruz, CA that became a therapy center.
Though there is no longer a bell to ring in the Bell Tower, I love to ring a few of the ornate bells located on a stand in the reception area just in front of the blue sign that says “Best of Saratoga 2012.”