QUEENSBURY — Nicholas LaSorsa stood outside the North Church of 1867 on Tuesday morning as light rain began to pour over his shoulders.
LaSorsa purchased the historic structure in November 2021 and turned the renovated house of worship into a short-term rental property.
“It’s nice that other people can experience it,” the Florida resident said. “Because it’s not a church anymore, you can’t just come for a service. It’s good that people can come and see it. »
LaSorsa said he felt like he was just the current custodian of the 155-year-old North Church at 2283 Ridge Road, the first church built in the area.
While the church is part of its future, it has become a piece of its history.
“I love ancient history,” he said, “and being in Florida, it’s devoid of history.”
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The North Church is on Upper Ridge Road in what was a farming and forestry hamlet called Brayton. The area was also known for its “summer trade”, wealthy boarders who arrived during the warmer months and occupied hotels like the Trout Pavilion.
“It was an age of worship, an age that took the fourth commandment seriously,” according to an article written to celebrate the church’s 90th anniversary in the 1950s. of a place of worship.”
But their summer residence was without a church.
In 1864 a group of summer and year-round residents organized a Sunday school, which met at Sheldon Point on the lawn of the East Lake George House or at the school on Upper Ridge Road.
“This arrangement served for some time, but, in the summer of 1866, plans for a definite organization with its own place of worship were put into effect,” the article explains.
In the summer of 1866, they formed the East Lake George Union Sabbath School Society, stating that the group would welcome “a union of all denominations of evangelical Christians.” The charter and certificate of organization were filed in the Warren County Clerk’s office in what was then Caldwell on September 18, 1867.
Kattskill Bay farmers Job and Miranda Mattison donated the land and farmer Sidney Irish provided the wood. to build a church structure. Benefactors included Reverend Wesley B. Lee and Curtis L. North, both summer residents of Brooklyn, and Mr. Boice, of whom little is known.
The Reverend Jacob Fehrman donated the chandeliers, which were imported from England. John Antwerp of Saratoga Springs built the church.
The church was also known as the “Union Church” and sometimes referred to as the “Church of the Fish” because of a bronze fish mounted on the steeple that resembled a weather vane, according to an article published when the church celebrated its 100th anniversary. .
The bronze fish, the article explains, was a symbol used by the early Christians to designate their secret meeting places in the catacombs of Rome.
The first stone of the church was laid on November 5, 1867.
“The following year, on the evening of August 27, 1868, the Society’s annual business meeting was held in the full church,” the 90th anniversary article explains.
The bell for the new belfry was made in Troy and could be heard as far north as Pilot Knob.
That same bell still sits in the tower today, LaSorsa said. He rang it, himself.
Later, a presbytery was built, as well as a 16-person horse shed and an academy. LaSorsa recently discovered the original stone path that once ran along the church lawn.
The building was dedicated in November 1868 and became North Church – in honor of its benefactor Curtis L. North.
Church of the North in the 20th century
The church closed around 1910, when Reverend Laing was pastor.
“The closure was symbolic of the times and if anyone could have boasted the gift of foresight they could have predicted even then the catastrophe that overtook us in 1939,” the article said. “The closing of the Northern Church was only the visible local sign of a universal spiritual blackout.”
The only people paying attention to the closed church, the article says, were vandals, who sought to strip it of its material elegance. Someone stole the bell tower’s bronze fish weather vane.
“Once this was removed, there was little left to attract attention and the North Church settled back into its protective greenery to undisturbed decay,” the article reads.
The fish weather vane was found in New York and eventually returned. It disappeared again in the 1950s and was returned. Once again it was stolen in April 1981. It was brought back several months later and eventually donated to the Lake George Historical Museum, according to a 2010 Post Star article.
The church had fallen into disrepair by December 1945, with the building collapsing and disappearing into the brush on the edge of the Harris Bay marsh.
It reopened for a special Christmas program that year. A Post Star notes that the bell, silent for 25 years, will ring again on Christmas Day 1945.
The historic church celebrated its 100th anniversary in August 1966 with a special program. And regular services continued on Sundays throughout the year.
“The North Church was rededicated in a service in the mid-1970s after several years of renovations, including re-panelling the sanctuary, new ceilings and carpets, rebuilding the stained glass windows and painting the exterior of the building, according to an article in The Post Star August 23, 1975.
In the early 1980s, the church was again abandoned for lack of members. The church was put up for sale, and the trustees decided to divide the proceeds from the sale among five churches in the area.
Artist Scott Johnson and his wife bought the church and restored the building, turning it into their residence. Johnson used stone from the parsonage to build a large fireplace in the center of the sanctuary, according to a 2004 report Post Star article.
Church of the North in the 21st century
Johnson, who had been confined to a wheelchair after a diving accident in 1990, died in the church in 2002. The church was eventually sold to Justin Talarski and Melissa Klebes.
In 2004, the church was the subject of a television episode of “Ghost Hunters”. Paranormal investigators hunted ghosts in the old church.
LaSorsa, who was born in Queens, was looking for a second home in New York, when he came across the ad on Zillow in November 2021. The Florida realtor flew in and made an offer the following week .
“When I bought it, there were definitely mice, definitely other creepy critters, tons of spiders, but it wasn’t haunted,” said LaSorsa, who started renovating the now-turned-church. home.
He installed new kitchen cabinets with quartzite countertops, installed new windows, replaced rotting siding, installed custom doors, and refinished century-old floors.
“The guy who did the floors thinks they’re about 100 years old and the church itself is 150,” he said. “I think there’s another layer underneath.”
There is one bedroom on the ground floor and it has replaced the steep stairs to the second level, which has two more bedrooms and a second bathroom with a balcony that overlooks the open plan first floor.
LaSorsa bought the property as a “viable financial investment” with the intention of renting it out on the Airbnb and Vrbo websites.
He expressed his dissatisfaction with the recent decision by the City of Queensbury to impose a five-day minimum on all tenants, allowing short-term rental operators to rent for only 120 days a year.
The bylaw is meant to prevent “weekend warriors” who only rent for two to four days and disturb other residents of a neighborhood.
There are currently 657 short-term rentals registered with Warren County, including 82 in the city of Queensbury.
“Right off the bat, you hurt property values,” LaSorsa said this week.
The North Church began accepting tenants in August and was solidly booked for the first month, he said.
“I really felt the responsibility to restore it and keep it for another hundred years. Even if I’m only here for another 10 years, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m glad the community still has it.”
Gretta Hochsprung writes features and news from her hometown. She can be reached at 518-742-3206 or [email protected]