MANSFIELD ─ The best time to see the beauty of The Old Franklin Church is when the sun comes through the stained glass windows.
The former Methodist church, built in 1906, is located at 3775 Franklin Church Road in the northeast corner of Mansfield. The congregation sold the property years ago to Perry and Bonnie White, who turned it into a residence. Now, it's owned by Don and Jennifer Vanmeter, who also own the Wishmaker House in Bellville.
Don Vanmeter said he has wanted to acquire a large venue suitable for weddings and other events. He fell in love with the old church when first checking the place. Besides expanding the business, he wanted to keep beautiful old buildings like this from getting razed.
“My thought is if you could take something like this and make it commercially viable, then you can save the building,” Vanmeter said. “To me, that's worth the effort.”
The church’s first floor comprises the sanctuary, a formal dining room, a study area and two bedrooms. Downstairs, there is a spacious kitchen with four ovens, a reception area that can accommodates 100 to 150 people and a lounge space. Most amenities and furniture were in place when the Vanmeters took ownership.
Event coordinator Bethany Braun said the curved pews in the sanctuary were custom-made for the church and could seat 100 to 125 people. The stained-glass windows, made in Indiana, were transported on a wagon from Columbus to the site.
“They're probably the crowning jewel of the church,” she said.
Vanmeter said one of the bedrooms could be used as a honeymoon suite. The owner is going to add a bathroom/bridal suite next to the room where brides can change and get ready more comfortably.
People can also rent the two bedrooms as a bed and breakfast. Vanmeter said overnight guests will get the best deal by having access to the sanctuary, kitchen and other spaces. The owners plan to separate and rent out spaces individually in the future.
Braun said the possibilities for use are endless, including weddings, baby showers, bridal showers, corporate events and graduation parties. She has scheduled several anniversary parties this year.
Some people have shown deep interest in the cemetery next to the church. Braun said two women toured the place weeks ago and said they will stay at the church, spending days looking at all the headstones. The oldest one was is dated 1812.
Vanmeter said he has discussed doing antique auctions at the church. He looked forward to seeing various events take place in the future.
“I'm very optimistic. I believe that things are going to change,” he said. “People are tired of last year. I believe that things are going to start rolling again.”
The business has planned a sip and shop event on May 15. Braun said she hopes the weather will allow vendors to set up on the lawn and provide the community a little fun.
For events with a catering need, Braun said food needs to be pre-cooked or pre-prepped because the kitchen is not for commercial use. Alcohol provided at the events has to be bought through the Wishmaker House to comply with regulations regarding the liquor license.
For more information about The Old Franklin Church or to schedule a tour, visit the venue’s website or call 419-719-8078.