A house of the Lord is set to become a house of the handyman – with an historic church ripe for D-I-Y conversion into a heritage character residence being placed on the market for sale.
The 145-year-old former Marton Methodist Church and hall in the main street of Marton in the Manawatu began life as a house of worship in 1872. However, as congregation numbers dwindled and the property maintenance schedule became too onerous for parishioners, so too did the secular support – with services ceasing there for the final hymns on Waitangi Day in 2005.
The church was deconsecrated shortly after, and was purchased in 2007 by a Hollywood-based movie and TV executive, Neal Zoromoski - whose spotlight credits as head of ‘props’ include the hit series Scrubs, Scandal, and Criminal Minds, and the apocalyptic big screen action film The Day After Tomorrow.
Neal Zoromozski bought the church and hall after holidaying in New Zealand and falling in love with regional Manawatu and Whanganui. He intended to lovingly renovate the property as a long-term D-I-Y project, and use it as a Kiwiana vacation destination. However, an unfortunate change in personal circumstances meant the project was never completed.
The main church building features a high-stud barrel-vaulted wooden ceiling with rimu floorboards, kauri wood paneled walls, almost a dozen rows of original seating pews, and original leadlight stained glass windows. It comes complete with its own tower and steeple.
Meanwhile, the smaller adjacent single level church hall features cathedral-style wooden beam ceilings and similar kauri and rimu floorboards and walls, and even a small musical organ used to provide accompaniment to various hymn sessions. Both buildings are in their near-original conditions.
Now the somewhat forlorn-looking structures – sitting on 1053 square metres of land at 339 Wellington Road – have been placed on the market for sale by negotiation through Bayleys Palmerston North. Manager Karl Cameron said the character-filled edifices were landmarks in the town – with Marton locals patiently waiting a decade for their ‘rebirth’.
“Jesus was a carpenter so I’m sure he’ll be looking down with a smile and giving his blessing to anyone looking to restore this once proud church and hall to their former glory. Imagine what some of those creative types from The Block NZ could do with this space?,” Mr Cameron said.
“It’s that old cliché with all historic places……. “they just don’t make ‘em like this any more.” While the two buildings may have been dormant for the best part of a decade, they have admirably withstood the test of time – a test which has seen them proudly standing in the town for almost 150 years.
“They are ready for a new life though… and the current owner has given his benediction to continue the vision he once had for restoring these buildings to their historic former grandeur.”
Mr Cameron said the configuration of the two buildings within the section and dual entry points from the main road meant the premises could potentially be developed as two separate entities.
“That opens up the option of refurbishing one as a primary dwelling and the other as a B & B style commercial accommodation venue, or even developing both as a boutique religious-themed B & B with a holy unique point of difference,” he said.
Marton Methodist Church was designed by one of New Zealand’s most revered colonial architects, Frederick de Jersey Clere, who drew up plans for some 100 churches throughout rural New Zealand between the end of the 1800s and 1904.
de Jersey Clere was renowned for his economical and unostentatious adaptation of the contemporary Gothic Revival style - expressed particularly by pointed arches and a variety of roof-truss constructions such as towers or belfries… exactly the style of Marton Methodist Church.
Among de Jersey Clere’s creations still standing today, in addition to the Marton Methodist Church, are St John’s in Feilding, All Saints' in Palmerston North, St Mary's in Karori, St Matthew's in Hastings, St Mary of the Angels in Wellington, and St Andrew's in New Plymouth. He also designed Wellington's AMP building and two harbour board buildings on the city’s Queen's Wharf.
Since selling the Wellington Road church and hall closed their doors for prayer, the Marton Methodist Church congregation has been worshiping regularly at a privately-leased property in the township.
“Any former congregation members, and indeed any members of the public curiously wanting to see inside the church and hall one last time, are more than welcome to come back and visit to share their memories of the many good times enjoyed within those staunch wooden walls,” Mr Cameron said.