Thankfully, vestry leadership had had the foresight to undertake long-range planning to account for growth and the need to maintain a century-old building. But even if they hadn’t, the decision to install a new organ would have required changes in the church.
A large part of the renovation project was necessitated by normal aging and deterioration of an 1894 building: eighty-year-old wiring, century-old floor joists, seventy-year-old mechanical systems, and the failing organ. But St. Peter’s also had a larger vision: welcoming parishioners and strangers into a life of Christian faith and being present in a vital way to its community—both the homeless and the well-heeled. As it had throughout its history, this small church continued to demonstrate its commitment to its mission with tenacity and foresight.
In the end, the two enormous undertakings—renewing and restoring the church and building and installing a new pipe organ—went hand in hand.
John Fryday and Mike Doyne, the Charlotte architects who shepherded St. Peter’s through its renovations, said the decision to place the organ at the rear of the church and move the choir there made it critical to improve the church’s acoustics.
The challenge they most enjoyed was figuring out how to light the space above the choir in its new location without affecting the look of the church. Their greatest challenge was the replacement of one-third of the ceiling (the section above the new organ) in order to enhance sound quality. Replacing the ceiling in such a way that people would not notice the change was “the most nerve-wracking part of the renovation project,” the architects said, but general contractor Hostetter & Keach “got it right.”
The goal was to improve the space while maintaining the historic integrity of the church—to create a restoration that will last a very long time, even while it remains true to the period in which the church was built.
In the architects’ words, St. Peter’s is a worship space that is enhanced without visible modern appliances that detract from the history of the church. “It is a gorgeous jewel box.”