The former home of the First Christian Church of Morgantown was in disarray.
Faded checkerboard tile was chipped and dirty from years of use. Pews were covered in a red fabric, hiding intricate 144-year-old mahogany woodwork. Boiler heaters were exposed along the sides of the chapel.
But even in poor condition, Dan and Patricia Planker were taken by the beauty of the church’s stained glass windows.
“It was something to see. I’d try to get up early to work in here, just so I could see that early-morning sun coming through all of the windows,” Dan Planker said.
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The Plankers purchased and restored the historic 19th century church, with the vision of creating a unique wedding venue and banquet space in a country atmosphere called the Chapel at Morgantown.
They worked for six months restoring the building to its original elegance while adding comforts such as a kitchen, lounges for brides and grooms and a warming kitchen.
“There’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in it. It means a lot to us, and it means a lot to our community to be able to have something in this building again,” Patricia Planker said.
Filled with history
First Christian Church of Morgantown was founded in 1840, and the brick building that would become its home was constructed in 1871. Expansions were done on the rear of the building in the 1940s, ’50s and ’70s.
But about 10 years ago, church officials realized it had outgrown its historic structure. It moved into a new building on the north side of town in 2004.
Though the church has been occupied on and off throughout the years, the condition deteriorated through time. Still, it caught the attention of Patricia and Dan Planker last year.
The idea to buy an old church stemmed from a wedding that the Plankers attended last summer. The event was held in a renovated chapel, with stained glass and vintage atmosphere.
The couple live in Morgantown, and while driving past the vacant church, the Plankers mentioned that it would be cool to have a similar venue here locally.
It took a few weeks before Patricia Planker brought the idea back up to her husband, who was just as enthused about it.
The couple made a bid on the building, which was still owned by First Christian Church of Morgantown. They started work in October after closing on the property.
“So all of a sudden, we owned a church,” Patricia Planker said.
Refurbishing the building required the Plankers to redo the hardwood floors and pews and create a warming kitchen for receptions. The interior was repainted, and a new roof was put on.
Lighter grays dominate the chapel, helping to accentuate the light from the stained glass windows. Yellow tones are the primary colors in the reception area.
“Elegant was what we were going for in the sanctuary and chapel, then comfortable and warm here,” Patricia Planker said. “We tried to go with a color scheme that was neutral enough to go with any bride’s color scheme.”
After ripping up the red seating that covered the pews, the couple hand-weathered the wood and lacquered it to protect it. They painted the ceiling and reworked the paneling along the walls.
Patricia Planker is a registered nurse, while Dan Planker owns a contracting company. Dan Planker did almost all of the renovation work himself, only needing help tearing out walls and reworking the plumbing.
A stained glass window that had bridged the front entrance had been taken out and installed in First Christian Church of Morgantown’s new building. But the Plankers took photos of the original, then had a glass artist in Franklin create a replica to reinstall in their chapel.
They retained the original stained glass windows in the chapel. The windows had been imported from Europe, with each individual piece needing to be assembled after being shipped to Indiana.
Beneath each one is a plate dedicating the window in memory of a church member. The Plankers kept the plates to add a sense of history.
“The windows are just amazing. On a really sunny day, with the light coming in, it’s incredible,” Patricia Planker said.
What would become the banquet space had been walled up for classrooms and offices. Dan Planker spent days tearing out the partitions, opening it up into an area suitable for dancing and dining.
The ceilings need to be redone and retextured, and new light fixtures were added.
Patricia Planker has been in charge of outfitting much of the space with furniture and décor. She has scoured flea markets, antique stores and consignment shops to find unique pieces that fit into the look.
A glass chandelier became an ideal light for the women’s bathroom. The small table at the front of the church was acquired in a trade with a Morgantown dealer for some salvaged items from their own renovations.
Old farmhouse window panes were covered in reflective paint, put on a sliding rail and turned into the opening for the bar service.
“We bought her a used truck, so that she could drive around to all of the flea markets to pick stuff up,” Dan Planker said.
The Chapel at Morgantown’s first event is in May, when the Plankers’ daughter is getting married. Another wedding is scheduled for September.
Though laid out mainly to accommodate weddings, the space can be adapted for retreats, reunions, cocktail parties and other events, Patricia Planker said.
“We’re trying to utilize all of the ins and outs so we can get as many people in here,” she said.
What: The Chapel at Morgantown, a converted historic church turned into a wedding chapel and banquet hall
Where: 140 E. Washington St., Morgantown
Who: Owners Patricia and Dan Planker of Morgantown
History: Built in 1871, the church formerly housed First Christian Church of Morgantown.
Capacity: 225 people
Information: chapelatmorgantown.com or 812-597-0045
What: Open house
Where: The Chapel at Morgantown, 140 E. Washington St.
When: Noon to 3 p.m. April 25
What: A chance to tour the renovated 1871 chapel
Cost: Free and open to the public
“The windows are just amazing. On a really sunny day, with the light coming in, it’s incredible.”
Patricia Planker, on the stained glass windows in The Chapel at Morgantown