BENNINGTON -- The sky is the limit for Mike Nigro and Sarah Parrin, the proud new owners of the former Christian Science Society Building at 125 Hillside St. The pair plans to convert the 77-year-old church into their new home.
The couple will continue to reside for the next few months in a modern, "comfortable" condominium. However, according to Nigro, he and his girlfriend have long been searching for a space with a little more history within its walls.
"We like the character that old buildings have," he said. "In the past, we've looked at old firehouses, churches, schoolhouses, but just never saw anything that would actually work. Then, we saw this place and it just clicked."
The couple first learned that the building was for sale in May and toured the property soon after, immediately captivated by its charm and potential.
"Sarah saw it and thought it was such a neat building," Nigro said. "Then she brought me along for a second tour and we really liked what we saw."
Parrin and Nigro then began a lengthy and challenging loan application process, which, Parrin noted, was the cause for many sleepless nights.
"Getting the financing was really tough," Nigro said. "We had to go to several different banks before we were approved."
Nigro said area bankers were reluctant to make loans because the church was being converted into a home and not another public facility. The possibility of foreclosure was the main cause for concern.
Finally, the Bank of Bennington approved the couple's plans and they were able to close on the property last Thursday.
"This would not have happened without Bank of Bennington," said Nigro. "They've been so great."
Now the couple is in the midst of a creativity and planning whirlwind, making daily trips to the hardware store to thumb through paint swatches and examine pellet stoves.
According to Parrin, they've found an architect but are still brainstorming a floor plan that will work for their lifestyle, while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of the structure and its former function as a church.
"We definitely want to retain the natural characteristics of the building," Nigro said. "Because it was a church, it has so many unique aspects, the pews, the choir loft, the floors, the altar -- we want to try and find a way to make it all work."
Parrin, who grew up in an old schoolhouse renovated by her father, is excited about carrying on a tradition of living in an unconventional space.
"I would love to keep some of the signs around the church, maybe a few of the pews," she said.
A large message painted in gold above the altar, stating, "God is love," is a contender for remaining in the home.
Perrin says support from community members over the past week has been plentiful.
"Everyone thinks it's a neat project," she said. "They are really excited for us. It's nice."
The couple also noted an equally overwhelming number of phone calls regarding the church's pews, organ, signs and other accoutrements. They want the community to know that they have no plans to sell any of the church's furnishings for the foreseeable future.
As for the project's completion date, the pair, although excited, is remaining realistic.
However, they do have a goal of bringing the church up to code within six months or less, with immediate plans to add a master bathroom, bedroom and a kitchen.
"The true scope of this project will probably take a few years to complete," Nigro said. "But, then again, a building like this is kind of a project for a lifetime. The sky is the limit."
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @bethconkey.