Meet Michael Lidgus, a new Newburgher who is restoring and rehabbing the old Christian Science Church at 188 Grand Street into his new home. He is a retired aerospace design engineer who now gets to do what he loves doing every day of his life – rehabilitating an old building. Read Michael’s home adventure journey and his future plans for the late church. Truly inspiring for anyone else who desires to repurpose and reuse an old Newburgh building!
Michael Lidgus found Newburgh about two and a half years ago but, before deciding on Newburgh he had searched all along the east coast to make sure he was making the right decision; visiting New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Carolina’s, and even Georgia. He ran across interesting old buildings in his travels but New York called him back for family. His daughters live in NYC and he wanted to be closer to them. Newburgh’s train access was a plus because he dislikes driving in the city and dislikes finding a parking spot even more.
For about a year and half he persistently tried to purchase the old Jones Automotive Shop on Wisner Avenue which never materialized. Then, one day he stumbled across 188 Grand Street. It was overgrown with ivy and greenery and it looked abandoned. Being proactive, Michael went online and researched the property and found that it was owned by the Newburgh Community Land Bank. He wrote a proposal which was accepted and, on August 2nd he closed on the church.
Michael is quite the adventurer! He bought a trailer from Craigslist, sight unseen to live in while doing renovations on his future home. Since starting renovations he has repaired the slate roof and just a weeks ago got the electricity turned on. He is also clearing out old carpet in the basement. The building has seen a lot of water damage since the old roof was never properly cared for. This project will be a combination of restoration and renovation. Although the church appears to be quite large from the outside, the space is mostly taken up by a sanctuary and many other tiny rooms. It was never designed to have someone live in it. There were rumors that the church used to be a home. However, Michael explained that in the 1800’s there indeed did exist a home on the property that was used as a church but, it was torn down to make room for a larger building which is the one he is working on now. It was built in 1940. He says that although his home might not have some of the charm as some late 1800’s houses, he thinks the exterior of his home is beautiful with its locally quarried stone. The church was a very plain church, but Michael says that there are 8 brass chandeliers in the sanctuary that are stunning and they make up for the plainness.
When I asked Michael what it was like to work the City of Newburgh Land Bank he said that they made buying the home “a piece of cake”. His feelings as a customer were that they were “great and supportive” and they “introduced him to the right people”. Madeline Fletcher, the Consulting Director, was “heaven to work with” and his experience with Fire Chief Vatter equally pleasant. Before moving in to his trailer, Michael lived on Lander Street or “Blood Alley” as it was made famous by NY Magazine in 2011. However Michael says that he enjoyed his time living there. People treated him like anybody else and were very welcoming. In fact, he learned people might not be as they seem, in a good way.
Michael’s impression is that Newburgh is coming out of the era that has made it notorious. He feels it’s being reborn and just like a real birth, the birthing process is difficult. When I asked him what words of encouragement he would give other people wanting to take on similar projects in Newburgh, he said that there is a place to be purchased here for anybody. There are so many beautiful buildings for anyone willing to do the work. There are properties that you can’t find in a lot of areas for the prices that they are going for in Newburgh. He feels Newburgh was “made just for him”. The City of Newburgh is glad to have you Michael! We can’t wait to see how your home develops!