Walking through the threshold of the old Grace Church building in Sheffield brings all your senses alive. The smell of the fresh paint, lumber, and coffee waft through the air. The light streaming through the stained-glass windows is enough to take your breath away. You can almost imagine people singing, couples saying, “I do,” and the baby grand piano playing softly in the background.
This historical treasure was built in 1901, and it has seen many years come and go. It was almost forgotten when engineers in Birmingham asserted that reconstruction was a lost cause. The wooden floors were rotted out and the walls were leaning closely toward the neighbor’s house just six feet away.
This news did not deter Gary and Vicky Dean. They purchased the property just days before it was to be torn down. Gary is a retired boilermaker, and he has done almost all the renovations himself. This has required thirty tons of steel, concrete flooring, and repairing the roof that had also sunk in.
“It has been a family affair,” proclaimed Gary. “We and our children and their families have all pitched in to help.” The results are mesmerizing. The stained-glass windows original to the building had been sold. Vicky, who is also the owner of HodgePodge Antiques, worked tirelessly to locate and purchase them. Then came the daunting task of reworking them. “It only took us three months!” Gary said with a grin.
Most of the textiles used in the building came from recycled materials. The ceiling came from an old paddle wheel at Cypress Creek, and a covered bridge from western Colbert county. Iron for the handrails was rescued from an old cemetery fence, and the stage was reworked from the original wood floors. The gothic style light fixtures are original, but they have been lowered to be more visible. Even the 1899 baby grand piano was donated to the property by Jeannie and Acker Rogers of Rogers Department Store.
The Deans have big dreams for Grace Church. There will be weddings, Ladies’ Bridge days with lunch provided and dinners and dances on the heated floors. Additionally, up-and-coming musical artists from the Blue Bird Cafe in Nashville have been working with the family to schedule entertainment sets complete with food trucks outside.
“We can hold up to 150 guests. We have a bride’s room, handicapped accessible bathrooms, a prep kitchen and reception hall. We would even host Harry Potter-themed birthday parties because it resembles the inside of Hogwarts!” beamed Vicky. “All of the inside furniture will be mobile. We will be able to move things in and out to accommodate the unique vision of each client. We wanted to do something bigger to leave to this community. We want to help the schools by hosting fundraising events for them. We just have so many ideas!”
A special Open House will take place Saturday, August 31 from 1-4pm complete with a local Shoals Celtic band. Everyone is invited to attend and celebrate the opening of this majestic historical landmark at 700 North Montgomery Avenue in Sheffield.