For sale: You could live in this 100-year-old Chillicothe church for just under $400K

Leslie Renken
Journal Star

CHILLICOTHE — Converting First Baptist Church in Chillicothe into a home was a project of a lifetime for Linda and Terry Gritton. 

The pair bought the old brick church in 2015.  

“It was on auction in January. We didn’t know about it, but it didn’t sell for the low-bid price, so they put in on the market in March. We bought it in April,” said Linda Gritton. 

The pair paid $69,000 for the nearly 8,000-square-foot building, which had been vacant for about a year. 

The former First Baptist Church, now the residence of Terry and Linda Gritton, at 622 W. Pine Street in Chillicothe.

The Grittons were living in Bartonville at the time. They decided to move to Chillicothe, where Terry grew up, because they attend church and do volunteer work there. The idea of buying an unusual property to live in was not a new idea for the pair.  

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"Earlier in our marriage, I had pleaded with my husband to buy an old church down in Pottstown that was for sale and converted. I thought that would be so cool because you've got that big open space and all that, and he's like, ‘No, no, no,’” said Linda. “So one day when we came out this way, and he saw that the church was for sale, he said, ‘How about this?’ So we walked through it and I said, ‘It’s beautiful, but maybe we better not.’” 

A few weeks later, the subject came up again.  

“He says, ‘Maybe we better, because, if we don’t, in a few years you’re going to say, I wish I had done that,’” said Linda, who ultimately agreed. 

“We were looking to move here and we had our house up for sale and we couldn’t find a house,” said Linda. “I finally said, 'Let's just go for it.'” 

The pair moved everything into the church and went to work making it into a home. High on the to-do list was building a proper bathroom. Though the building had three half-baths, there were no bathing facilities. 

“We joined Pearce, the community center, which is only a block and a half away from us, and that was our bathing house,” said Linda. “It took about six to eight months before we finally got the master bathroom done.” 

Sunlight streams through a stained glass window into a large dining room in Terry and Linda Gritton's home in Chillicothe. The Grittons bought the century-old First Baptist Church at 622 W. Pine Street in 2015 and converted it into a family residence.

While the Grittons were able to do basic home improvement projects like painting, they needed help with the heavier construction work. They got connected with their handy neighbor, George Dickerson, through friends at church. Dickerson was as excited as the Grittons to take on the project, said Linda. 

“He did all the construction and all of the carpentry. He even made all my cabinetry,” she said. 

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Built in 1907 with an addition added in the 1960s, the church provided plenty of challenges on its way to becoming a home. The electric and plumbing had to be updated, and the plaster-covered brick walls needed insulation. There were also many design challenges, like where to put the bathrooms and how to deal with the gentle slope in the sanctuary floor. 

“It slanted down to the stage area," said Linda. “We cut the sanctuary in half, lifted the back half of it, took up all the original flooring and re-laid it,” said Linda.  

The level half of the room became the living room. A wall was constructed with a doorway and a step down into the front part of the sanctuary, which became a theater room. 

The Grittons turned half of the sanctuary of the former First Baptist Church into a room for entertaining, complete with a television projector, pianos, an organ and comfortable seating.

Even after the sanctuary was cut in two, the living room was still huge, so Linda asked Dickerson to build a large hutch as a divider at one end of the room. She situated her husband’s office behind it. Another cupboard created her office across the way. 

The old Sunday school classrooms in the addition became three bedrooms. It was a particular challenge because the construction there was mostly concrete. A tiny drinking fountain near the church’s back entrance was retained. 

“It still works,” said Linda. 

The Grittons endeavored to keep as much of the building’s original character as possible. The woodwork was cleaned and, in some cases, enhanced. When new doors were needed, they were chosen to look like the existing doors. The church’s massive stained-glass windows were in excellent condition, needing nothing but a good cleaning. The building’s enormous walk-out basement was left pretty much as it was when the Grittons bought the building. A colorful mural still graces a wall over a tiny table and chairs where children played while church was going on upstairs. 

Though there is a full kitchen in the church basement, the Grittons put a brand-new kitchen in what was formerly the church office. In a nod to the era that would likely have been the heyday of the building, the cabinets were painted jade green – a color popular in the 1930s.  

The Grittons converted the old church offices into a spacious and stylish kitchen.

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The Grittons have put a major amount of work into the building in the six years they have lived there. In addition to converting it into a home, they also built a big three-car garage and landscaped the lot. 

“I call this my edible backyard. I’ve got blueberries, blackberries, two apple trees, two pear trees, two plum trees, two cherry trees and rhubarb,” said Linda. 

With the project now complete, the Grittons are looking for the home’s next owners. Priced at $399,900, the home was listed with Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group a few weeks ago. While Linda is looking forward to downsizing and being closer to family, the move is bittersweet. 

"There are things I'm going to miss, like my daylight basement,” said Linda. “But it’s time for this house to have a lot of people in it. It needs activity, it’s just built for activity and enjoyment and fun. There's so many other things this house could be — it could still be a ministry place or it could be an Airbnb or it could be multi-family. There's just a lot of possibilities.” 

Leslie Renken can be reached at (309) 370-5087 or Follow her on