- Messenger Photos Darcy Dougherty Molesby Jo and Cathy Potratz are turning a former church into their cozy home on this farm near Barnum.
Finding a piece of land to call home in rural Iowa may seem like an easy task, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Cathy (Martin) Potratz discovered this while living in Gowry and began looking for opportunities to live closer to the farm in the Somers area where she grew up.
“My family owns a piece of land in Webster County, east of Knierim, but they haven’t had a home here for decades,” Potratz said.
One day, while driving through the neighborhood, Potraz spotted Calvary Presbyterian Church and had a great idea. The church, located about a mile north of her home’s land, closed permanently in April 2010 and remained empty for several years. Can the church be moved to her family’s land?
After several phone calls and evaluating options, Potrac received permission to build a church. “This is a big decision and I sometimes wonder if it was the right move,” Potrac said.
However, everything went well and the settlers arrived on a cold windy day in 2014. It was windy and there was snow on the ground, but the church survived the move without damage, Potratz said, noting that it cost about $16,000 to move the building and install it in the basement. “The church is well built,” she said.
Messenger photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby A modern kitchen fills the vaulted vault that was once a church altar and pulpit.
This church replaced the earlier Calvary Presbyterian Church in the area. The original church opened in 1898, but burned down after being struck by lightning in 1936.
It took several years to turn the church into a home. In the summer of 2016, the Potratz family moved into the house and he said some people were already living in the walls, including snakes and rats that needed to be removed.
“While we replaced old wiring, added drywall and insulation, and opened up the clock tower, we tried to leave everything else as is,” said Potratz, who lives in the home with husband Joe and their children.
A modern kitchen fills the vaulted area that once housed an altar and pulpit. Potraz purchased a stained glass window from Lehigh Church to add color and light to the ceiling. She also added cabinets that used to be in her grandmother’s kitchen.
- Photo Messenger Darcy Dougherty Molesby Family daughter Keely Noreen, 9, loves to draw and create art in this basement play area, which is made from recycled materials from Calvary Presbyterian Church.
The former sanctuary has enough space for a dining area with large crockery that once belonged to Potrac’s grandmother. Potratz painted this elegant piece of furniture with white chalk and used it to display some of the dishes that were once used in the basement/kitchen of Calvary Church.
The other side of the sanctuary includes a living room with a small table painted blue by Portlatz. This table has been in the pastor’s office for decades.
Potratz also retained the pulpit that housed the church’s guest book. She used this piece to show the church’s Bible, rubber stamps reading “Golgotha Presbyterian Church in Barnum, Iowa,” and a spiral-bound book printed by the congregation to document the history of the church.
The former Sunday School classroom on the side of the former altar has been converted into a bathroom and laundry room. The walls outside the church are decorated with long-handled ecclesiastical lighters and small sets of musical trumpets used in Calvary Presbyterian churches.
The home also includes a nursery upstairs, as well as a master bedroom and bathroom behind the former sanctuary.
- Photo “Messenger” Darcy Doherty Moresby. This bench decorates the entrance to the converted farmhouse of Potrac Church.
A basement with two bedrooms, a living room and a bathroom completes the home, including new, custom-arched windows and a framed replica of the church’s original blueprints that adorn the walls above the stairs to the basement.
Potraz’s advice on how to take on a big project? “The budget is bigger than you think, and understand that it may take longer than you think.” However, she added, the results were worth it. “I love the vaulted ceilings and the large open space. It’s still cozy and homey here.”
— Photo Messenger by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby The former sanctuary has plenty of room for a dining area, complete with a restaurant once owned by Cathy Potratz’s grandmother, complete with large utensils.
- Messenger photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby This elegant arched window reminds people that this house was once a church, providing natural light to the bedrooms.
Messenger photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby Potratz The farm-turned church has a nursery upstairs.
- Messenger photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby. This family living room is part of a finished basement that also includes two bedrooms and a bathroom. It took several years to turn the former church into a home, but now, according to Kathy Portraz, it is “cozy and homely.”
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Post time: Oct-17-2022