When Katrina Petersen bought Crooked Steeple Hall in 2013 with plans to fully renovate it, many thought it would be “too much” for a single mom.
But she proved everyone wrong. Petersen’s passion project is nearly complete.
Crooked Steeple Hall, located across Union Meeting House in Winterport, was built in 1850 and is included in the National Register for Historic Places. It’s known for its bell, which was cast in 1872 by Blake & Co., in the same foundry originally owned by Paul Revere. The church served as Winterport’s Methodist Episcopal Church until 1992, but has since served as a residential space, performance hall and Kaler Street Music store.
Petersen bought the hall after a chance finding. She was driving downtown when she saw a “For Sale By Owner” sign and a phone number. A former co-owner of a property management company, Petersen knew the hall had so much more potential than just an apartment space alone.
The hall included the original working bell cast, stained glass windows, wooden floorboards and church pews. But despite the old character of the building, Petersen said the whole space had to be gutted including fixing the roof and removing the pews, the floorboards and asbestos tiles in the basement. Years of renovations ensued.
Petersen said the physical labor she put into the renovations helped her with the stress from her bitter divorce and gave her a purpose. Granted a restraining order against her ex-husband, the church provided solace after an unsafe and “isolating” experience.
“The church was one of my therapy places,” she said.” It was a really great form of letting things out.”
Petersen said the project is the first she is trying to be “intentional with.” Although she has hosted smaller events, she has been working to convert the space into a wedding reception venue, with the hopes that couples will get married across the street at the Meeting House.
After doing research into the wedding industry, Petersen partnered with and built a team of women in the business including a wedding and events director, travel concierge, design director and business manager. Petersen’s role will be maintaining the space and working with her partners on the booking.
Petersen has other plans for the space as well and will host parties, corporate events, movie screenings, and offer the hall as a free venue for nonprofits and political town halls and debates.
A two-bedroom suite located in the hall and a family home of Petersen’s a half-mile away are available to rent for families of wedding parties or visitors.
Petersen has already invested close to $200,000 of her own money, doing much of the work herself besides the plumbing and electrical work. But Petersen said the project would not have gotten to where it is without helping hands from the Winterport community and her family.
“None of this would’ve been possible without the support of my parents who are incredible people, even when I was going through the worst,” Petersen said. “My dad for giving me my fighting spirit and my mom for her endless energy.”
She said more than 20 people, mostly strangers to her, alone came to pull up the floorboards with others coming to take out the pews and the counter from the hall’s kitchen. Multiple volunteers have come to help out with the hall’s participation in the town’s live Nativity scene and bake sale at the town’s recent pirate festival.
But now, Petersen needs that monetary help to complete the rest of the project such as priming and painting the walls and ceiling, and hiring a steeplejack to work on the historic steeple. She has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise the remaining $100,000 needed to help with those final touches.
Petersen hopes that the final project will help make Winterport a destination for tourists and the updated hall will help with those efforts.
“I really love Winterport, and I would love to see it revitalize,” she said. “The church is a piece of that.”
Petersen is ready to open the doors of the hall to the community and will hold an Open House 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, at 176 Main St. This event is free and registration is available on Eventbrite. For more information on Crooked Steeple or the crowdfunding campaign, visit crookedsteeplehall.com.