Weekly Feature



2017-12-13 / Front Page

Brick by brick

Once the site of the Clarence Presbyterian Church, 10750 Main St. has been transformed into a venue space
by ETHAN POWERS
Editor


Owners Kathy DeRose, left, and her husband Dave, with Beth Gross, co-owner of Gerties Restaurant, pose in the newly renovated space at The Brickhall in the Hollow. 
Photo by Jim Smerecak. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Owners Kathy DeRose, left, and her husband Dave, with Beth Gross, co-owner of Gerties Restaurant, pose in the newly renovated space at The Brickhall in the Hollow. Photo by Jim Smerecak. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Dave and Kathy DeRose have always had a project to occupy their time and energy, from commercial developments in Clarence and Williamsville to creating the Akron organic beef farm Utley Acres, which raises Angus and Red Devon cattle.

Their latest undertaking, a restoration of one of Clarence’s most historic and cherished buildings, is a significant labor of love designed to reconnect town residents to the treasured property.

When The Brickhall holds its grand opening to the public at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, the hope is that the lavish venue space will attract weddings, showers, luncheons and gatherings to a building that needs little reintroduction to the community.

The structure, located at 10750 Main St., traces its roots to 1844 when the Clarence Presbyterians completed a building that was to be their place of worship for more than 100 years.

“This is a spot where people drive by and say, ‘I wish something cool could go in here,’” said Kathy DeRose.

In 1817, a group of Calvinists began to gather despite an absence of a physical worship space. When the “Gospel Lot,” comprising 90 acres of land about 3 miles from Clarence Hollow, was deeded forever to the Presbyterian Society of the Town of Clarence, the first incarnation of the church was constructed at the corner of Salt Road and what is now Main Street for a sum of approximately $2,000.

When the steeple was erected, it stood at nearly 50 feet tall and instantly became a Clarence landmark as the tallest spire in the town.

At the dedication of the church in 1844, the Rev. J.K. Kilbourn wrote that it was “the pride of all ages and the topic of the tongues.”

The congregation moved to its current location at 9675 Main St. in 1957 after the Rev. Harvey Jenkins reported that the church had a membership of 202, which represented a 90 percent increase in 3½ years and one that reflected the population growth in Clarence at the time. The new and improved Clarence Presbyterian opened on Palm Sunday, April 14.

The DeRoses had commenced the process of acquiring the 10750 Main St. property in October when they intended on simply renting the building to a business, before ultimately deciding to restore it as a venue space.

The Brickhall, available from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., will allow 106 to be seated and 225 for row seating or standing. Gertie’s Restaurant in Clarence Center is The Brickhall’s approved and preferred caterer for the venue's full kitchen space.

The renovations to restore and maintain as much of the existing structure that remained were significant, says Dave DeRose, who admits that all of the plumbing and electrical had to be “gutted.”

“I think, initially, we just thought we bought an old building, but we learned about it as we invested in it,” he said. “We wanted to preserve what was here but also update it in a respectful way.”

The DeRoses discuss their plans for the venue underneath the main hall chandelier, accompanied by four smaller ones positioned in the corners of the white ceiling. Exposed brick walls and hardwood floors make for a warm, inviting atmosphere.

The hall’s massive, Gothic windows, which flood the space with natural light and provide an unobstructed view of Main Street, are identical to the ones removed in 1957, complete with glass kite adornments of different colors. Steve Swiat of Northwood Restoration, which specializes in the replication of historic wood windows, worked to re-create the frames.

The Brickhall also includes a smaller space upstairs, once the location of the church’s Sunday school classroom and perfect for a small luncheon or a bride’s dressing room.

When asked for a cost estimate on the building’s rehabilitation, Dave DeRose smiles and shakes his head.

“We’re still adding things up,” he said.

The DeRoses believe that The Brickhall has the potential to be more than a platform for local gatherings, and instead, an objective for residents to visit Clarence Hollow and appreciate a successful adaptive reuse story.

“Unless you’re over this way for a reason, a lot of people don’t come to the Hollow,” said Kathy DeRose. “I think the town’s vision now is to make the Hollow a destination place.”

Both DeRoses note their reverence for a site that continues to provide waves of nostalgia for older residents who see the building and remember a bygone era in Clarence history. The couple say that since construction began, people will often stop in, marveling at the walls as they describe the memories they associate with them.

Framed photos in The Brickhall’s restrooms pay homage to those memories. One picture displays a horse-drawn carriage on a dirt road Main Street, while another depicts the building’s once-famous steeple being detached in the 1950s. It’s an adornment that the DeRoses hint could see a return in the future.

“People will stop in, and they’re always encouraging of the progress,” Kathy DeRose said. “We often walk with them through the building, and they tell us what they remember about it. It’s nice that those people are able to add that historical connection to the building.”

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