Restoring the Westminster Property in Downtown Beaumont
Our founding vision of Riverside Church calls us to be “for the city,” right here, at home, in Beaumont. When we started in 2016, it only seemed natural to begin meeting downtown, at the children’s museum inside the Civic Center. In a remarkable working of God’s providence, we discovered an available building within steps of our temporary space, the old Westminster Presbyterian property.
This property consists of a sanctuary, in high Gothic style, completed around 1912, and an educational building, in Art Deco style, completed around 1930. Both buildings, typical of the construction of their time, were built to stand the test of time, both structurally and architecturally.
Westminster, a ministry rich in history and special to many in Beaumont, dissolved in 2009. In an act of true civic service, the late Jim Austin purchased the building and prevented it from becoming a source of blight for the city. He and his heirs maintained it for 8 years, seeking a buyer who would restore the property to its former beauty.
By the grace of God and through His provision, including a very generous six-figure gift from a donor outside of our church community who wishes to remain anonymous, Riverside Church purchased the property in July of 2017 and began the process of renovating it for further Christian ministry. Some people told us we were crazy, that no new church should locate itself downtown, when all of the growth was on the west end. And a church plant should especially not begin its life with a renovation project, which more often than not have huge unexpected expenses.
However, such a project is consistent with our ethos as a church. Our members are relatively young, and in many ways are a generation that has more in common with our great grandparents than those immediately preceding us – desiring to return to the authentic, the vintage, the classical, the real, as opposed to the manufactured, the new and the modern. For us, it was entirely consistent with our vision and mission of renewing, restoring and recapturing the freeing message of His gospel - and to see the return to this beautiful architectural treasure the laughter of children, the singing of God’s praises and the teaching of His Word. No new building would offer this type of opportunity -- to connect with history, and to honor local Christians of generations past – and to conduct ministry on a property that is not just simply functional for its purpose, but beautiful for the glory of God.
As a young church, however, our resources are limited. While a few seed donors have stepped forward to help us complete Phase One of the restoration, we will not be able to finish our work without the help of others. Details of the work and funds required are as follows:
Total Cost: $1.47 million dollars - as of 07/26/2017 $283,000 raised, 19% of total budget
Our plan is to complete the first floor and stabilize the roof of the educational building by year-end 2017. This will give us the room we need to meet as a church in the facility; temporarily, we will use the large gathering space with a stage (see picture below) for worship services. The full restoration of the property will proceed, beginning with the educational building, then the church, as funds become available.
- Demolition of existing damaged, obsolete or unserviceable first floor facilities - Underway
- Stabilizing and Replacing Leaking Roof (Educational Building) - Underway
- General Cleanup, Including Landscaping - Underway
- Repair of Church Sanctuary Roof - Late 2017
- Restoration of First Floor of Educational Building for Use (Flooring, Plumbing, Plaster Repair, Electrical, Plumbing, HVAC) - Late 2017
- Restoration of Second Floor of Educational Building for Use - TBD based on fundraising
- Restoration of Third Floor of Educational Building (required, by code, retrofit installation of fire sprinklers and elevator servicing entire building) - TBD based on fundraising
- Renovation of Church Sanctuary - TBD based on fundraising
We are seeking a coalition of partners to work with us in this project for civic renewal in our city. It is essential that Beaumont complete the work of restoring residential life to its downtown. Increasingly, in today’s economy, smaller cities in our state are losing in a “winner take all” contest as the siren song of Austin, Houston, San Antonio and other destinations drain our talented young people who are seeking a more authentic, and safe, urban experience. How many of us are sick of seeing our children and grandchildren move away from our community?
We absolutely love the Beaumont area. It is a testament to its hidden qualities that it is almost a rite of passage for some to move away, only to move back when they begin to miss the friendliness, the familiarity and the authentic sense of place that can only come from an organic community, where most people are locals and have been in the area for generations. But why should people have to move away to figure this out? Why can't Beaumont offer both, a stimulating and authentic urban experience, while at the same time being a great place to put down roots?
In the long term, Beaumont must have downtown music venues, lofts, restaurants, retail and civic space to attract young professionals, who are increasingly not satisfied with the type of generic suburban sprawl that appealed to previous generations. Beaumont, with Texas’ geographically largest historical downtown district, and, due to its earlier vintage, more architecturally glorious historical buildings, is uniquely positioned to make itself an emerging destination for startups and professional firms. Such an opportunity, however, will only be seized by deliberate effort and the support of local visionaries.
The Westminster project represents a step in the restoration of downtown. Our young, dynamic church group will increase traffic downtown on nights and weekends, contributing to the economic ecosystem that will be key to attracting businesses downtown. During the week, we plan to utilize the restored educational space as offices or perhaps to host a private Christian school in the area.
We are looking for key strategic partners to provide funding for this restoration. Not only will we restore an architectural treasure of our city, but we will also be moving Beaumont in the right direction for its long-term viability in an increasingly competitive climate among our cities to attract growth and talent.
Would you consider a gift to help us in this project?
You can make a donation toward the restoration through our giving site. (Choose the Building Fund designation)
For those considering gifts and wanting more details on the project, please contact Joshua Cavett at 409-782-0860. We would love to give a tour of the facility and share more of our vision. Your gift, of whatever size, will be treated with the highest standards of stewardship and integrity.
For ongoing information about our restoration project at the old Westminster Church building and to follow our progress, visit the Facebook page for the project.