Former Kenyonville church reborn as country lodge
Photos by Tom Rivers
WATERPORT – Joan Page has spent the past three years working on the Bell Tower Lodge, turning a big open space into four bedrooms, a private three-story suite and a common area with a kitchen.
Bell Tower Lodge, the former Kenyonville United Methodist Church, opened in June. Page had an open house over the weekend at the location on Oak Orchard River Road.
She is pictured in the second floor of the private suite, which has a sliding door that can be closed for privacy or opened to show the common room.
The former church was originally built in 1833. It was closed as a church in 1983, when three United Methodist churches joined to build a new church in Carlton.
Page bought the property, including a neighboring house in 1989. She wanted the house and the church building was included in the deal.
Page put a new roof on the church soon after she bought it. She also made some foundation repairs. The building wasn’t changed too much while she used it for a gift shop and later as a wood-working business.
Three years ago she began the ambitious task of turning the structure into a lodge.
“I couldn’t let this building go,” said Page, a Kendall graduate who now works as postmaster in Barker. “I have this need to bring things back to life.”
Page envisioned the building as a lodge. The property overlooks Lake Alice at the Kenyonville Road bridge.
She thought it could be popular with fishermen, and families in town for reunions and other events.
She stopped by the Waterport Dam about three years ago and asked visiting fishermen if they would like an upscale lodge as an option to stay. Many told her they thought that type of lodge would be a success. Many wives of fishermen want to travel with their husbands to Orleans County but they don’t want to stay in motels, or more rustic sleeping arrangements.
The Salmon Room is one of four bedrooms with two full-size beds and a private bathroom and shower.
Page furnished the rooms with repurposed furniture. She fixed many discarded furniture pieces, and bought others at auctions and thrift shops.
She removed the plaster from the ceiling in the old church and discovered the original wooden beams.
This room, part of a three-story private suite, used to be part of a Sunday School classroom.
Page opened the lodge in June and she said people have been enthusiastic and surprised by what they see inside.
“Because we’re in this area they don’t think there will be a boutique lodge,” she said.
The private suite leads to the top of the cupola, which offers this view of Lake Alice and the bridge on Kenyonville Road.
Page had lots of help from family and friends in the renovation.
Page uses three hemlock logs as support for the stairway to the second floor and also for ambiance.
She has a church pew on the first floor. It wasn’t original to the church. Page said the building was stripped of all the pews before she bought it. She found a pew in the lodge at an auction.
She pulled up carpeting on the floor and discovered the original floors, which have been sanded and repainted.
Below her is the common area for socializing and preparing meals.
“I wanted it to be a lodge and to be comfortable,” she said.
Page has the program from the final service at the church in this frame near the entrance of the lodge.
A historical marker is next to the former church. It notes the church was built in 1833, with the first Methodist class organized in 1818 by Barber Kenyon.
For more on Bell Tower Lodge, click here.