Faith and imagination came into play last spring when Jillian Potts (’06 Pol. Sci./Pre-Law) signed an agreement to lease a unit at the Greystone Church Apartments sight unseen. Not there was anything to see. It was months before the walls of her apartment would even be built.
Still, with just the blueprints as a guide, Potts committed to one of the most exciting projects Pullman has seen of late.
Greystone Church, a long-neglected century-old landmark on College Hill, found new life last fall as an apartment house for 47 tenants, the majority of them Washington State University students.
The challenge for the new owners—Glenn Petry, a former WSU finance professor, and his wife, Melodie—was to remodel a historic building that was falling to the ground. Realtor Dick Domey recalls the many problems the building suffered during the 26 years it was vacant: vandalism, a rotting roof, and water leaking into the corners, not to mention large chunks of stone plummeting from the façade. “It was so close to being demolished,” says Domey, who brought in several companies to estimate the cost of tearing it down. Because the price was close to $700,000, the former owners decided to just keep it vacant, he says.
But Petry had long had his eye on the Greystone, and in April 2004 jumped at a chance to buy it. His grand ideas for the property included a coffee shop, theatre house, and museum. But he went with what he knew best: apartments. As owners of more than 145 units in Pullman, the Petrys wanted the restoration of the church to be a gift back to the city they had worked and lived in for more than 27 years. Attention to detail and quality were essential. They spent $140,000 on the ceiling alone, restoring it to the wooden masterpiece it had been more than a century ago. Total renovation costs were about $1.5 million.
“We decided not to spare any expense on this,” Petry says. “We wanted to make this building a place that would be around for decades.”
Even with the modern conveniences installed in the apartments, including new appliances, carpeting, and plumbing, it was important to the Petrys not to forget the history of the place. The lobby holds a small exhibit of mementos from the former church, including organ pipes and a Sunday school desk. And the apartments feature many of the architectural elements, like stained glass windows and stone walls.
The church was built on land bought by the United Presbyterian Church in 1898. The last service was celebrated there in 1977. In 1988, community members formed the Greystone Foundation to put the site on the National Historic Register and to buy and restore the building. While the organization did get the property declared a landmark, the church was bought by a California couple before the foundation could meet the price. But that couple never managed to find the money to remodel the building.
In late August, the first tenants moved in. Rent is on the higher end for College Hill properties, Petry says. But plenty of people want to live there.
Most tenants say their new home has turned them into guides for curious community members. Pat Campbell (’06 Pol. Sci.) lives in the five-bedroom apartment at the front of the building. The unit features the structure’s largest stained-glass window and bedrooms in the two towers.
“I’ve walked in from the parking lot and had several people ask if they could see my apartment,” he says. “But I don’t mind giving tours. I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to live in a unique place like this.”
—Amy Trang ’06