A church to call a home

Real estate agent who bought St. Mary’s Church in Lake Church plans to convert 136-year-old building into a house, and it wouldn’t be the first time he’s done it

ST. MARY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH, a landmark in the Town of Belgium enclave of Lake Church for 136 years, has been sold to a man who intends to convert it into a house and sell it. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff

The 136-year-old St. Mary’s Church building in Lake Church has been sold to a Catholic with Luxembourg roots who intends to turn it into a residence and sell it to someone who wants to live like he does.

This isn’t the first time Daniel Majewski, a real estate agent and licensed contractor from Big Bend, has bought a church and turned it into a home. He, his wife Allyson and their two dogs live in the 4,400-square-foot Big Bend Baptist Church.

Majewski had been looking for another church to flip in the greater Milwaukee area, so when his real estate company listed St. Mary’s, he instantly contacted the broker and looked at the church the same day before deciding to buy it.

Majewski has been cleaning the former church, which closed in August 2018 due to the priest shortage, and figuring out the logistics of turning the 5,400-square-foot building on a 1.5-acre lot at 6098 Lake Church Rd. into a home.

Three church bells and a school bell have already been removed, thanks to the Bells of St. Mary’s, a community group formed to save the bells after parishioners, now members of Divine Savior Parish in nearby Holy Cross, became upset the bells might be sent to a mission in Africa. Many wanted to save the bells since they felt the church wasn’t given proper reverence when it closed three years ago. A bell memorial is planned in the adjacent St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Majewski said he has arranged for one former parish member to remove the final piece of the bells, a brick encasement for the school bell, to be used in the memorial.

Former parishioners are being allowed to remove the pews and altars for the next three weekends — Majewski put the clause in his offer.

“They’re allowed to come into the building while I own it,” he said. “It’s another way that I try to give back to the community and the church, not just demolish everything and throw it away,” he said.

At his home, Majewski uses one of the old Big Bend Baptist pews as his dining room table.

What do to with the St. Mary’s stained-glass windows is another story. Majewski’s home has 3-by-8-foot floral stained-glass windows that are split in the middle. He took out the bottom portions, valued at $1,000 to $1,200 each, and donated them to the Village of Big Bend.

St. Mary’s has four 5-by-12-foot windows depicting Mary and Jesus that Majewski said he was told are worth tens of thousands of dollars each. Maejewski is willing to have them removed but not pay for the work.

In a worst-case scenario, he said, the windows will stay and he will paint black around the trim  so they pop against the church’s white walls. He has blackout curtains in case people don’t want to constantly be looking at Jesus on the cross.

Majewski plans to implement the coveted open-concept design in the home.

He will put in a 12-foot-high wall that’s 80 feet long — the length of the room — in the 3,200 square-foot sanctuary, leaving 2,000 square feet for the kitchen, living room and dining room area.

The altar has three steps that are 17 inches tall, nine feet from the wall.

It is prime space for a living room with an L-shaped couch and an ottoman, Majewski said. An 85-inch TV can hang near the altar, “and it looks small on that wall,” he said.

Other indoor improvements include a new heating, ventilating and air conditioning system — the church ran on a boiler system and doesn’t have AC, he said. Larger ceiling fans will also be installed.

Despite the fact that his large home has 17-foot ceilings, Majewski said, insulation has helped keep his winter heating bills to an average of less than $200 per month.

“We insulated the attic a lot more. I had to literally get bats out of the belfry,” Majewski said.

On the exterior, Majewski plans to match the paint color and maintain the building’s appearance.

“Everything will look the same from the outside,” he said.

The yard, however, will look different. The parking lot will be turned into a yard with topsoil and grass, and a three-car garage and mound system will be added.

Majewski will do some of the work himself in spring and hopes to put the building on the market in six to eight months. His home took four months to be move-in ready.

He plans to make the one-hour drive from Big Bend to the Town of Belgium with his two dogs four days per week. It will be a busy spring since Majewski’s first child is due in seven weeks and he coaches pole vault at West Allis Nathan Hale High School.

Last week, Majewski received a positive recommendation from the Town of Belgium Plan Commission to rezone the building’s lot from a park and recreational district to residential. The Town Board is slated to act on the matter Nov. 1.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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