Dan Majewski converted the former St. Mary Catholic Church in Belgium into a five-bedroom home. (Submitted photo)
Whether it’s vaulted arches, stately columns or stained-glass windows, the unique features of church architecture make for breathtaking spaces.
But what happens when these majestic buildings fall out of use? In the hands of Dan Majewski, these churches are being restored and converted into incredible, modern homes.
A former employee of a tile store, Majewski’s work was dwindling due to the pandemic. He had his realtor’s and contractor’s licenses and the dream of flipping properties full-time. He had successfully done four homes and then saw a former church in Big Bend for sale. Once he saved it from demolition and renovated it, he was hooked.
“It used to be a Baptist church, and after I renovated it, my family and I moved into it,” he said. “It was a complete conversion. It had two half bathrooms and I converted it to a three-bathroom, four-bedroom, two-kitchen home. It was a huge project; I had to add HVAC and update the electrical.”
After the church was renovated, Majewski, owner of Majic Properties, received a historical preservation award from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The second church he converted into a home was St. Mary Catholic Church, 6098 Lake Church Road, Belgium, a 5,700-square-foot structure that is now available on the market. Majewski converted it into a five-bedroom, three-bath home with a three-car garage.
“This was a massive project,” said Majewski, who is a member of St. Joseph Parish in Big Bend. “With churches and basically all properties now, people want an open concept property. In smaller market properties, that means tearing down structural walls, but the church is already open, so I must build walls, bedrooms and bathrooms. I design everything like an architect, such as how big the walls are, how high the ceilings are and how those fit with the square footage.”
Majewski said he has no desire to demo everything in a church structure, as he wants to keep much of the property’s heritage. In each of the churches he does, he keeps two church pews, paints and reupholsters them, and uses them as dining room chairs with a table in the center.
“I kept the Ave Maria symbol in the Belgium church, kept the entry doors that swing into the main part of the church, painted them and put them on a barn door track for bathroom doors,” Majewski said.
Majewski also retained all the stained-glass windows, which results in a natural light casting colorful hues into the home. The kitchen cabinetry is constructed around the tall windows, which depict various saints and scenes from Scripture. The bell tower still has the original stone walls but is now carpeted. A ladder remains for the curious to climb, though the bells were relocated to the nearby St. Mary’s Cemetery.
“I kept the wooden shelving unit with a black slate seat and put down new plywood that goes all the way up,” he said.
Since the church was vacant for several years, the decommissioning of the church was already completed. However, there were still statuary and relics to manage.
“I work with the church, and it actually ends up being better for them,” Majewski said. “I allow them to sell pews, statues and relics, and take the profits from them. That also helps with my purchase price or their sale price.”
When the renovation of the former St. Mary’s Church was completed, Majewski placed an ad in the local Belgium paper, inviting the public to come for an open house.
“I anticipated about a dozen to stop by, but we had well over 300 in a four-hour block,” he said. “I had families and older people who were baptized and married there. They were all thanking me for what I have done and not tearing down the church.”
Majewski is currently in the process of purchasing a former Methodist Church in North Prairie that he plans to renovate into a home.
“These seem to be falling into my lap. I enjoy doing this and plan to make this my niche work,” he said. “It is very unique, the way of living in a former church. The buildings are structurally solid and if there is ever a tornado, these are the places you want to be.”