These graceful hotels and restaurants bring new life to abandoned church buildings.
Once abandoned places of worship, deserted churches across the South have taken on glorious new purposes. Keeping with the cannon, these beautiful churches have been resurrected. They’re now gorgeous places to gather, enjoy a meal, or spend a night—and we dare say that their second-comings are even more stunning. Rich with history and brimming with remarkable remnants of their past-lives, these restored churches are now impressive restaurants and hotels that live up to their locale.
After a long day of visiting a Southern city, rest your head in the restored bell tower of a restored sanctuary, now a welcoming inn. Grab a bite to eat at a thoughtfully converted historic church, complete with pews as booths and an ornate stained glass arched window as your backdrop. Or, enjoy a craft cocktail in a speakeasy that was once a century-old church building. Rather than leaving these abandoned buildings to rot, Southerners are enjoying several historic churches in new and vibrant ways. We're singing our praises to these repurposed churches.
This boutique hotel in East Nashville is full of surprises. Not only is it operated out of a historic church building from 1904, commemorated by a colorful stained glass wheel window and archway motifs, The Russell is also completely concierge-less. Run by technology rather than a front desk staff, this charming 23-room hotel, brightly bedecked with modern decor to balance out its age-old features is a must-stay in one of Nashville’s most desirable neighborhoods.
Though they’re no longer an active church, The Russell maintains a commitment to service, demonstrated by their “Rooms for Rooms” program. For every night booked, The Russell donates money to benefit those in Nashville burdened by homelessness.
Hotel Peter And Paul
New Orleans, Louisiana
Spanning a historic school house, rectory, convent, and 5,000-square-foot deconsecrated Catholic church, school house, rectory, and convent, Hotel Peter and Paul is jam-packed with deep-rooted character. Restored with care over the course of four years, each section of the hotel is uniquely inspired by veneered New Orlean’s estate design. For instance, the school house is carefully crafted with colors drawn from 14th-18th century religious paintings while the convent is Hotel Peter and Paul’s most tranquil dwelling as an ode to the Marianite nuns who once called it home. In the spirit of “Love Thy Neighbor,” Hotel Peter and Paul also offers discounts to nearby friends from Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas.
The Preacher’s Son
In the sanctuary of a 1904 Gothic Revival style church, The Preacher’s Son is dishing out delicious dinner made with Northwest Arkansas’s best local ingredients and flavors. Order some eats, take your pick from the extensive wine list, and take in the distinctly historic surroundings. The old church is graced with modern art and charm that augment rather than mask the building’s church roots, like a stained glass window decorated with a butterfly, branch, and bicycle motif.
Diners can also enjoy the building’s rooftop or discover a discrete and moody subset hidden beneath the main sanctuary. For those really in search of a holy spirit, take a detour to The Preacher’s Son’s clandestine cocktail lounge, Undercroft, hidden through the church’s old coat room.
In this case, though the church is old, the hotel is brand new. Lily Hall, a recent renovation of Pensacola’s historic Old Mount Olive Baptist Church, will become a hot new hotel in February 2023.
Everywhere you look in Lily Hall, you’ll be greeted by historic emblems pointing to its clerical roots dating back to 1928. Alongside aged exposed brick and dedications to its past, this boutique hotel embraces bright patterns and bold colors as inspired by its modern Florida community. In addition to delightful rooms to spend the night, Lily Hall also offers fetching common spaces for gathering on Sundays like in the building’s old days, or any day of the week.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Just a block from New Orleans’ Canal Streetcar, this sophisticated cocktail bar and restaurant serves up intriguing libations and seasonal dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. The inspiration behind their name, Vessel, is three-fold. At Vessel, look up to see the first; The ceiling of the building, a 1914 Lutheran church, was modeled after the hull of a ship—a vessel. The name also memorializes the holy vessels from the church’s past. Lastly, the name alludes to their dozen unique styles of glasses used to sip a selection of wine, beer, or craft cocktails from behind the bar, framed by a baroque arc window.
The Gallatin Hotel
Sister hotel of The Russell, The Gallatin also graces the Nashville community with the same charitable program and technology-first model. What makes this Music City site so remarkable is the duality of its vibrant, ultra modern decor and historic roots. At The Gallatin, originally constructed as a church in 1925, you’ll find bold art, stark pops of eccentric color, and bunk beds galore.
Charlotte, North Carolina
True to its roots in a mid-century church, this Southern steakhouse finds inspiration from church potlucks. Supperland even still boasts some of the church’s impressive original structure. From the 1948 church building in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood, Supperland delights with delicious food and a whimsical interior, including a grand chandelier, oodles of wallpaper in vibrant patterns, and even chapel-style pews as seating.
The wonders don’t stop there, though. Below the restaurant, Supperland is hiding an intimate speakeasy. Here, further embracing the establishment’s origins, ten lucky patrons can savor a “Spirit Experience” of one-of-a-kind cocktails paired with small bites.
Perhaps the most special part of Sanctuary Place is its windows. Originally a episcopal church built in 1889, Greek orthodox worshippers reclaimed the property from 1907 to 1943, during which time they turned the church’s stained glass windows into a memorial to their dearly departed. Now a set of lofts up for rent on Airbnb, many of those original windows continue to be displayed proudly.
The first loft, a restored bell tower complete with sloping ceilings and hints of Victorian-era craftsmanship, is a charming blend of preserved pieces of the past with modern amenities. The second rental, the Inner Sanctuary Loft, a three-level recipient of the Savannah Historic Preservation Award, has been revived with the building’s original materials based on photos of the church. The resuscitation of the church’s third and final installment is still to come.
While this Lone Star State boutique hotel is flush with Hill Country history throughout, its honeymoon suite is where you'll find holy ground. Known as the "Heavenly Suite," the St. John's Suite was formerly a Lutheran chapel. One hotel guest even reports that she got married at this chapel and returned after the conversion to stay the night!
Even though it's no longer a working chapel, it certainly still looks the part. While the hardwood floors are a token from the original chapel still around today, the clawfoot tub and rustic, modern farmhouse decor are new additions we can't get enough of. One hotel guest even reports that she got married at this chapel and returned after the conversion to stay the night!
Church And Union
Charleston, South Carolina
In the historic downtown Charleston building that this stunning restaurant now calls home, sailors once paid 25 cents per night to stay and pray. The Harriott Pinckney Home for Sailors and the Church of Christ the Redeemer were built in 1916, but since 2015, the now-desacralized church has been host to Church & Union while their sister restaurant, Tempest, aptly serves seafood in the seamen’s dwellings. 107 years after the red brick building’s construction, you can chow down on posh New American cuisine at Church & Union, alongside some of the church’s original stained-glass windows and hardwood floors.
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