The Bellefonte First Presbyterian Church will become available for an adaptive reuse project in January 2022. A local resident reached out to Preservation Pennsylvania asking for assistance in promoting the opportunity and finding a new owner. Considering the location, there are many creative possibilities for reuse of this three-building site. [See a link library of examples at the end of this post.]

A red stone church building with two towers, the First Presbyterian Church in Bellefonte PA is looking for a creative reuse
Ripe for reuse: the sanctuary building, one of three buildings at the First Presbyterian Church of Bellefonte

The church complex consists of the sanctuary, constructed in 1862, and two attached buildings: the chapel, constructed in 1872, and the education building, constructed in 1964. The three buildings offer approximately 15,000 square feet of space.

A grey stone gothic style chapel with a tower at the left
First Presbyterian Church in Bellefonte, PA: the chapel

The First Presbyterian Church was established by Bellefonte’s founders, Colonel James Dunlop and James Harris. Over the years, its congregation has included several notable parishioners, including two former Pennsylvania governors: Andrew Gregg Curtin and James A. Beaver, as well as early financiers of a fledgling Penn State University.

Fun fact: A bolt of lightning struck the steeple of the Sanctuary in 1913 and it fell onto a nearby home. Anna Wagner Keichline, the first registered female architect in Pennsylvania and a Bellefonte resident, designed the current towers. (Source: Facebook page of the First Presbyterian Church of Bellefonte)

For further information, please contact Candace Dannaker at

Bellefonte’s core business district and some surrounding neighborhood residential buildings make up a National Register District of almost 300 historic buildings. [Click here to read the NR documentation.] Residents and guests alike prize the town’s charming character. It is the County Seat. Nearby is Penn State University at State College.

Partners for Sacred Places offers this guide for churches facing transition.

Inspiration for adaptive reuse

In August, local media highlighted the new business concept at the Gamble Mill, Bellefonte’s second oldest building.

Office adaptive reuse of a church and parish house in Philadelphia

New Spirits Rise in Old, Repurposed Churches (NY Times) (cafe, studios, archive, nightclub and more)

Rethinking Sacred Spaces for New Purposes: 15 Adaptive Reuse Projects in Ancient Churches

How To Reuse A Church: Our Top Ten (Hidden City Philadelphia)

The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh

From abandoned National Historic Landmark to successful camp and school: St. James the Less

Beans in the Belfry: 100 year old church in Maryland trail town becomes a popular cafe