Chantry Place, located in downtown Christiana, is a beautiful location for funeral luncheons and other life celebrations and milestones. For more information, to be directed to Chantry Place's website.
Restoration of worship landmark in Christiana creates space for sacred occasions
DEBBIE WYGENT | LNP CORRESPONDENT Nov 4, 2014
A neglected building that was once a Christiana Borough church has been restored and given new life as a gathering place for sacred occasions such as weddings and funeral meals.
Steve and Jewell Shivery of Christiana have purchased and restored what was the town's first Presbyterian church at 15 N. Bridge St. and named it Chantry Place.
The brick-and-stucco building that is now Chantry Place was built for just $1,700 in 1857 by Presbyterians organized by the Rev. James Latta. By 1902, that congregation outgrew the building and built Latta Memorial Presbyterian Church on Green Street.
The Bridge Street church then became the home of Fieles Antiques, Scout Hall, an office for PPL and then an auxiliary building for Christiana Fire Company.
Lionel and Dolly Fowler renovated the building into the Freedom Chapel Dinner Theatre in 2002 and ran several dinner theater productions each year, but closed the business several years ago. They were unable to find a buyer, and it remained shuttered until the Shiverys decided a few months ago to purchase it.
The Shiverys have landscaped, painted and decorated Chantry Place, which can now seat up to 150 people for weddings, bridal showers, funeral lunches and other gatherings. There is a well-appointed caterer's kitchen, a dance floor and a second floor with offices and an alcove for a D.J. A wall with a stained-glass window now creates an entry way, and the couple has kept the theater's gleaming chandeliers as well as some original exposed beams bearing 19th century graffiti.
This is the second historic Christiana building the Shiverys have purchased and renovated. Last year the Shiverys, who own the Shivery Funeral Home in Christiana, purchased the landmark Dickinson Hotel behind the theater. Renovations there are ongoing, and they used the hotel's old iron railing at Chantry Place to separate the two lower floors.
Since the buildings are close together and share parking, the family is considering best future uses for both. The hotel likely will be opened as Christiana's Jewel, a hotel for out-of-town wedding and funeral guests who plan receptions at Chantry Place.
However, the hotel also has space for a potential restaurant and a ballroom for gatherings, and there may be space for apartments. The Shiverys said they plan to manage both enterprises with the help of their adult children. "We think the two buildings will work well together," said Jewell Shivery. "People tend to give up on small towns. They grow up, leave them and go on to the next best thing.”
"Renovating buildings puts some pride back in the town," said Steve Shivery. "I don't want to see any of it forgotten. This is a great place to raise families. It's worth investing in."