GENOA CITY — The building where Tyler and Monica Lee Woosley live was God’s house for over 125 years.
The Woosleys turned the former First United Methodist Church at 518 Booth St., Genoa City, into a home which respects the past as much as it reflects the personalities of its owners.
From the outside, the church looks almost the same as it has for the last decade, and the Woosleys frequently ring the bell in the roof tower for guests.
But inside, the former place of worship has been transformed into a comfortable place to live that mixes modern amenities with the restored architectural details of a building constructed in 1891.
“If we had started with new construction, we would not have gotten as much interesting detail for the price that we got buying this place,” said Monica Lee.
The couple purchased the old church for $35,000 in November 2017.
First United was a community hub for generations, but membership dropped in the last decade and costly repairs became necessary.
Church leaders decided to close the location.
Months later, the Woosleys fell in love with the place, its history and its imperfections.
The Woosleys knew the scope of the work they were taking on.
They were aware they would need to do things like strengthen the bell tower, fix the rotting belfry roof, stop the basement flooding and install new electrical and plumbing systems.
But they found some interesting things along the way, and they have one such item hiding in plain sight in their living room.
A wooden box marked “TNT” that now holds magazines was uncovered from the eaves of the second floor.
On her blog, Church Sweet Home, Monica Lee — a writer who has researched local history — stated the box once held dynamite.
The village was formerly known as Genoa Junction, as it was the intersection of two railways.
“I imagine dynamite was used to dislodge bedrock in some locations, to keep level the train tracks under construction,” Monica Lee stated. “The bedrock where our village is located is probably made of shale or possibly dolomite, which in any case cannot be shoveled. It must be blasted.”
Under less drastic circumstances, the Woosleys moved into their new home September 2018, and today, most of the project is completed.
Having fixed the flooding problem, they plan to turn the basement into a mother-in-law suite and restore the original hand-carved siding — removing the “1950s vanilla” siding currently on most of the building, said Tyler.
Now, the former worship area is a kitchen/dining room/living room, with a fireplace behind where the altar used to stand.
Former church offices are now master bed/bathrooms, and on the second floor, Monica Lee’s office.
A balcony extends from her office, over the kitchen, with a spiral staircase leading off it down to the main floor.
Numerous original details of the building have been preserved and restored by the Woosleys, such as the acid-etched church windows, the wainscoting and chair rails along the walls and the wood flooring.
“I’ve got 140 hours in, just sanding this floor,” said Tyler, general contractor for the project.
The idea of turning the old church into a home sat well with locals and First United members.
Pastor Lucinda Alwa, who led the First United congregation for 10 years before the church closed, once referred to the Woosley plan as being “the best of all outcomes” for the building.
Monica Lee said past church members often ask to tour their home, and some cry tears of joy when they see it.
Recently, some members gave the Woosleys two quilts that were made during a past First United project.
Even the tradespeople working on the project have been enthusiastic.
Tyler speculated that it’s because of the “warm and fuzzy” nature of the place, but Monica suggested it’s because their new home was a sacred space at one point.
“Lots of joyful things happened in here,” Tyler said. “Lots of happy things happened that were good for the community.”