‘A good challenge’: Couple turns 146-year-old Steuben County church into family home

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HUDSON, Ind. (WANE) — A building that stood as a church for more than 100 years remains a sacred space for a couple who transformed the 19th-century structure into their home – and soon, someone else’s.

“It is not your average home,” homeowner George Soliman said. “It’s unique in every aspect.”

For the past two years, George and Olivia Soliman have been restoring the former First Methodist Episcopal Church located along North Main Street, in the heart of downtown Hudson.

Before purchasing the church, the couple spent years looking for a unique home to make their own. Then one day, they found the listing of the church online.

“We fell in love with the windows, the crown molding, the space, the history,” George said. “The church has a whole different level of spirituality that we really enjoyed.”

The pair fell in love with the pictures and bought the property online, never seeing it in person until they packed up and moved to Indiana from California.

An old picture of the church back in the day.

The church was originally built in 1874. The building was enlarged, veneered and brick was added to the outside of the structure in 1916. The property remained a church for more than 100 years before the United Methodist Church put the home on the market due to its shrinking congregation and costly repairs needed to the building.

When the Solimans arrived at their new purchase, they said the size and beauty of the property took their breath away. However, the structure needed a lot of work.

“We had to do it,” Olivia said. “This place was just so beautiful. Any beautiful buildings need a chance to survive and preserve the history.”

Over two years, the Solimans restored the home, preserving and keeping a majority of the building’s original features like crown molding, hardwood floors, 18-foot ceilings, wooden room dividers, and stain glass windows. The home received a new roof, new electrical and new plumbing.

The couple had help from family and local experts who the Solimans joked were looking for John Dillinger’s treasure from the bank he robbed down the road. The treasure, however, has never been found.

The home has 6 bedroom, 4 bathrooms, and 2 kitchens spread across 8,000 square feet.

Even though the structure has been converted into a home, elements of the original church structure still remain. What was once the sanctuary is now an open living, dining, and kitchen area complete with church pews for seating.

In the lower level, the daycare center is now a second living space with old Sunday school classrooms now convicted into bedrooms.

The original church bell still sits in the tower, and with a hard tug on the rope, it still rings.

Throughout the home, you can find murals and little paintings done by Olivia, who is a French artist.

Over the years, neighbors have come to the Solimans with memories they had growing up in the church. The pair said they’ve enjoyed learning about the history of their new home.

“The people were warm and welcoming,” George said. “They saw our efforts – a lot of it was hands-on. When you see someone and his wife on a 20-foot scaffolding painting, and scraping, and trying to put it back to the way it should be, they appreciated that. We got a lot of thumbs up.”

George said the renovation is nearly complete. The couple said they love their home but are itching to start a new project.

Their advice to couples looking to do their own renovation projects? Go for it.

“It’s a good challenge,” Olivia said.

“It is a good challenge,” George said. “If you are a strong couple to start with, do it. Calculate, budget, and do it. Like she said earlier, every old building, especially something spiritual like this, deserves a second chance.”

The home will be on the market and for sale in the upcoming weeks. To get updates, see photos, and learn more about the property, click here.

Is there an interesting property in northeast Indiana or northwest Ohio that makes you say, ‘What’s up with that place?’ Let us know about it! Send us an email at WANEDigitalContent@nexstar.tv

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