The Sanctuary on Penn: breathing new life into one of Indy’s oldest churches.

As much as I try to avoid double-dipping with my blog posts, I had to include this reference to my latest post on my blog, American Dirt, because it is so Indy-centric.  I featured it on Dirt because it is a follow-up on an essay from a few years ago.


When I first featured the First Lutheran Church on North Pennsylvania Avenue over two years ago, its condition was disheartening: marginally maintained, weatherbeaten, and vacant since 2006.  Constructed in 1875, its aging, shrinking congregation had no choice but to close it, due to maintenance costs and its growing distance from where the population had migrated over the decades.  The most likely prospect at the time was for it to find a new life as condominiums, but then that market went bust in 2008 and has never really come back.  I’m proud to say that a crafty entrepreneur recognized the aesthetics of the building and its killer location fronting the American Legion Mall, and he reopened it a year ago as The Sanctuary on Penn, an all-inclusive event venue.




If you’re noticing that the interior still looks a bit tired, well, that’s the point–the new owner wanted to retain the aged look as much as possible, realizing that it was key to the space’s novelty and appeal.  If he had renovated it to look shiny and new, it would have seemed like yet another conventional church.  But by targeting the investment on details that enhance the elegant decay, he was able to devote more of the budget to improvements like the attractive back patio, which previously was a weed-strewn dump site:


My montage of photos at American Dirt takes the reader through the entirety of The Sanctuary on Penn.  To avoid seeming like a mere promo for this new business, I have included some analysis on the aesthetic decision making that may help extend the life of what had previously seemed like a threatened National Historic Landmark.  I encourage you to read the full article, and comments are welcome both here and at American Dirt.

Comments 1

  • Attended an event there this afternoon (5-24-16). Loved the old charm and history. One must go to the basement/lower level and see the floor. It’s worth the trip. Recommend this venue for a wedding, reception, high school reunion, etc. only down-side is parking.

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