New digs for local church

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Staff photo by Benton Sampson

The distinct Spanish Mission-style building of St. Andrew’s will soon begin a year-long expansion

Following the week’s holiday celebrations, construction crews will kick off a major, year-long expansion to St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound, the 90-year-old Spanish Mission-style church on the corner of Airlie and Military Cutoff roads.

The church, with its distinct white stucco walls, red clay roof tiles and scalloped gable ends, is a familiar sight to many motorists heading toward Wrightsville Beach, and has steadily grown in popularity over the years. Dan Knight, the senior warden of St. Andrew’s, this will be the third expansion the church has seen in its nearly century-long history.

“It’s a good problem to have,” said Knight. “Churches are shrinking all over the world, and St. Andrew’s has been blessed with growth.”

To kick off the project, the two-story Aman House, which currently houses the staff’s offices, will be demolished the week after the Fourth of July. The site will then be leveled, and the 12-month construction phase of a new building will begin.

The process began about three years ago when the church leadership recognized a critical need for additional space for the growing congregation. While the church itself cannot easily be expanded, the parish hall, designed to hold up to 100 worshippers for suppers, weddings, funeral receptions and other functions, is well beyond its intended capacity. The average 320 Sunday churchgoers necessitated a significant expansion.

A design and review committee was convened to gather input from members of St. Andrew’s and identify needs for the expansion. After the committee’s findings were met with approval by the church’s leadership, three local architects were then considered. John Sawyer Architects was chosen as an “ideal fit,” said Knight, who himself worked as an architect for 40 years. A capital campaign was then started, asking for pledges amounting to $1.7 million by 2015, 85 percent of which has already been pledged, and over half collected. Now with a full program in place and Thomas Construction under contract to see the project through, everything is going according to plan. 

Doug Sherwood, one of the architects who designed the new parish hall, explained that while the interior of the new building will be built in a more modern style, the exterior would mimic the distinctive Spanish Missionary style of the existing structure. 

“We designed the new building with the overall idea that at the end of the day, it would blend in with its surroundings, and when it’s complete you’ll never know it wasn’t there to begin with,” he said.

The new parish hall will contain the requisite space for its larger gatherings, as well as extra classrooms and a commercial-sized kitchen. An “indoor cloister” will function as a lobby and feature a floor-to-ceiling glass wall for a wide-open view of the church’s small cemetery, dotted with live oaks, dogwoods and cherry trees. 

Knight explained that the cemetery was a limiting factor for the new building, which will abut the brick walkway that skirts the south end of the graveyard. Sherwood added that nearby wetlands had also placed significant restrictions on where the new building could be sited.

The Aman House was built in the mid-1960s as a residence for the church rector, and sits adjacent to the church and cemetery. Until recently, it was being used as office space, but the church staff has now moved to temporary offices on Oleander Avenue. As part of the project’s second phase, the existing parish hall will be divided into new offices, renovations will take place on the educational wing, and the classroom space will be expanded into the new building. 

“It’s kind of like moving the chickens and the eggs around,” Knight said.

“I really liked how the congregation reacted to the challenge,” said Linda Brown, a Wrightsville Beach resident and director of the St. Andrew’s Flower Guild. As an active member of the church, she was especially excited for the added space for the preschool. 

“My take is from the youth’s point of view, because they’re really the future of our church,” Brown said.

The church’s long-range plans for expansion also include modifications to the nave, which would allow for expanded seating in the church’s main place of worship. Enhanced handicapped accessibility and a larger vestibule, where worshippers enter and exit the main hall, would also be in the works. For now, however, Knight said the focus is getting through Phase I. 

“We’re now 90 years old; my hope is that by the time we’re 100 years old, we will have completed Phase II,” Brown said.


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