11-16-21 | Feature

New Life in an Old Church

by Gabe Gierosky, Greenleaf Landscapes

The First Presbyterian Church Memorial Garden in Marietta, Ohio was in need of a new hardscape for their Parish Day Care. After their work on a small retaining wall behind the church, Greenleaf Landscapes of Marietta, Ohio was once again called on by the client to redesign the church's Parish Day Care's 0.29-acre site. Pictured here is the foreground on the more private patio for church and daycare use. The play area is tucked within the curved retaining wall, obscuring its view from the street. Up the first set of steps and to the left is the parking lot (out of view). Up the second set of steps takes you to the small plant screened prayer garden where there is a cross and stained-glass window backdrop. To the right of that is a large gathering space on the foundation of the old, demolished church. The path in front of and to the right of the large gathering space gently slopes up to Fourth Street which runs in front of the church.
Looking from the back wall of the sandstone foundation and down the steps, this biblically inspired fabricated steel railing and gate sections off the play area from the rest of the grounds.
A restacked foundation wall provides an opening for the paver path, approximately where the back door of the old church used to be. The plaque on the sandstone wall was reclaimed from the old church. It is dated February 14, 1957 and recognizes the old church as a local Colonel's boyhood place of worship. There is another plaque at the entrance of the Memorial Garden from Fourth Street that provides a brief history of the demolished church, the current church, and the Memorial Garden.
Steven Brock of Discovery Works in Arizona, the son of a church board member, built and installed the steel archway for the gathering space, the nails and crown of thorns on the cross in the prayer garden, and the fabricated steel handrails depicting biblical scenes surrounding the sunken playground, as well.
The original church, which was torn down in 2014, had wooden ceiling beams, which were repurposed in the Memorial Garden in the form of a cross, and stained-glass windows which are now displayed behind the cross. The cross and stained-glass window act as a backdrop for the Prayer Garden. When the Steeds Japanese Holly that flanks the benches in this small garden space are fully grown, the space will become very private, yet the tall illuminated cross and window will still be a focal point.
The landscape beds and plantings define and divide the gathering spaces while separating the paved walking path from the gathering space and prayer garden. The fabricated steel arch is a focal point for outdoor sermons and weddings. Surrounding the congregational space, includes plantings like Cherry Laurel, an Autumn Blaze Maple, Knock Out Rose, and Oakleaf Hydrangea. In the background across the street, you can see the bell towers of The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Assumption.
This fully restored stain-glass window was saved from the old church and revived by Schilcher Art Glass of Marietta, Ohio. The stain glass is illuminated with flood lights that make it a focal point of the garden even at night. There are Ostrich Fern lining the pavers and Helleri Japanese Holly mixed in

The First Presbyterian Church Memorial Garden is tucked away in a picturesque neighborhood of tree-lined streets, beautiful old homes, churches, and schools just a few blocks away from the Ohio River in Marietta, Ohio. The church is a short walk from Historic Downtown Marietta, the first permanent U.S. settlement in the Northwest Territory, which was incorporated in 1788.

In 2013, the church contacted Greenleaf Landscapes, also from Marietta, to add a simple retaining wall behind the church. This project would help smooth out a choppy layout from the addition of the parking lot for the Day Care Center.

Through the retaining wall project, the design team discovered that the church planned to demolish an old church structure that was built in 1865 and no longer in use. They were either going to add more parking or expand the small play area for the Parish Day Care Center.

Inside the old church, there were unique stained-glass windows, 150-year-old white oak beams, and a substantial hand-cut sandstone foundation in excellent condition. Potential salvage sparked inspiration; some parts of the old building could be saved and used to preserve the memory of the old structure. After realizing that the old church would not be demolished for a year, the design team from Greenleaf asked to create some conceptual drawings for a redesign of the A 1/4 acre grounds. The First Presbyterian Memorial Garden liked the idea of preserving its history. Rather than just expanding their parking lot, conversations within the church and with the designers generated an initial scope of work to include a more spacious playground with a safe, stable pathway from the parking lot and a gathering space for both aEUR?the church and the daycare.

The new design for the Day Care Center playground called for more space, so a multi-use patio was carved out of the hillside with varying levels to increase the usable area. They also added a wide paved path and steps, which created a safe and stable access point to the playground. The multi-level playground and patio, barely invisible from Fourth Street, would now serve as a private outdoor gathering space for the whole facility.
After surveying elevations from the street above and the rear parking lot, the design team discovered that the old church's crawl space was surrounded by a sandstone foundation that formed an already established base for the large sunken patio space. The possibility of more patio space within the borders of the old church's foundation changed the scope of work entirely. The patio now could be used for special events like weddings and outdoor services or a small portion of it could be screened off for a prayer/meditation garden.

The parish board wanted biblical-inspired plantings such as Ostrich Fern and Autumn Blaze Maple and other decorative elements such as a cross constructed of beams from the old church, that would enhance the religious look and feel of the patio and surrounding garden space.

The conceptual development became a function of establishing a method of getting from one attractive space to another with minimal steps, preferably without realizing you are making elevation changes. At the same time, the design team attempted to maximize the sunken play area and private patio space without infringing on the footprint of the old church's foundation.

This led to developing the whole space, not just the playground, and creating pedestrian movement from Fourth Street down a subtly sloping tumbled paver ramp to every part of the garden. The ramp leads to the larger patio, then to the screened prayer garden that sits just outside of the back wall of the foundation and down a few steps to the rear parking. Beyond that are the sunken playground and private patio.

Much of the construction, was accomplished during the winter months, which was made possible due to the sandy soil type and the mild southeastern Ohio winters. Drainage on the site is tied to existing pipes under the church. All the soil on site was made up of sand and gravel so great care had to be taken when excavating for the retaining walls. Walls, steps, and caps were all built of Highland Fieldstone Diamond Block coordinating with many of the non-structural textures and colors on site. Tumbled Brussels Sierra pavers by Unilock, were used to blend with the sandstone foundation of the old church and the textured limestone of the new church's construction.

The random pattern of the pavers mimics the random stone pattern of the new church's faA?ade. Rectilinear and curvilinear architectural elements in the new church repeat to offer a cohesive hardscape design. When excavating the demolished church and laying out the memorial garden, as many of the sandstone blocks were left in their original positions as possible. The blocks nearest the neighboring house and the rear parking lot were left in place. A few blocks were restacked to form a gap for the paver path where the back door of the old church sits. The blocks nearest Fourth Street were shifted from the street to make room for the lawn and plantings.
A small design compromise occurred after project completion when the church board decided to put a prefab storage building in their rear parking lot. It seemed unsightly and was taking up valuable parking spaces. So, Greenleaf dismantled the retaining wall bordering the parking lot and rebuilt it with an inset for the shed. Nestled into the rear plantings and among the western cedars, the small building vanishes from view in the garden while still, it is accessible from the parking lot.

The plantings were selected to screen different spaces from traffic, parking storage access, the prayer garden, the neighboring house, etc. After careful consideration of how to best shade the area, the design team, as requested, selected bible-inspired plantings. For example, Lady's Mantle Catmint, Fernleaf, Bleeding Heart, Hyssop, Iris, Lenten Rose, May Night Salvia, and Yarrow were planted throughout the project.

For continuity, dyed brown mulch was used throughout the project, while it also ties in with the brown limestone windowsills on the church.

While the old church is a relic, elements of the past are tied into the new design, symbolizing the history of the city and the church as a whole as well as the future of the First Presbyterian Church Memorial Garden and the entire property.


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