From sacred to secular : the adaptive reuse of America's religious buildings /

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Deathridge, Kristen
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Middle Tennessee State University
The adaptive reuse of historic buildings is widely practiced but little debated by historians. Advocates encourage adaptive reuse as a preservation technique, but most often they argue in favor of the economic and aesthetic benefits of the practice without encouraging developers to provide any historic context. Religious spaces have been adapted throughout American history. These buildings are such a culturally charged aspect of the landscape that they provide a logical departure point for an exploration of what adaptive reuse means and the public historian's role in that dialogue.
Four case studies from across the United States form the basis of this investigation. In Buffalo, New York, Roman Catholic St. Mary of Sorrows has found new life in an institutional reuse as King Urban Life Center and Charter School. An Architectural firm, Tuck-Hinton Architects, has adapted Elm Street Methodist Church, in Nashville, Tennessee, as its new commercial space. The United Hebrew Synagogue, in St. Louis, Missouri, has been reused as the cultural center housing the Missouri Historical Society Library and Research Center. In San Francisco, the Bush Street Temple has hosted the Congregation Ohabai Shalome, the Sokoji Zen Temple, Macedonia Methodist Church, the Zen Center, and now provides a residence for those living at Kokoro Assisted Living for Seniors. Evidence from religious buildings suggests that communities are more likely to rally around buildings which have cultural significance for those communities. In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of historic buildings, adaptive reuse requires a connection to the audience through interpretation of their historic context.
Adviser: Carroll Van West.