October 22, 2021

The Green’s white icon

Village of Homer looks to acquire former church

Photos by Nick Graziano/contributing photographer

Homer village Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe shows the inside of the “little white” church on the Green in the village. The village is looking to acquire the vacant church to preserve it.

Tucked to the northeast of Homer Elementary School on the Homer Village Green sits an empty little white church with caution tape across its front stair rails.

The former Calvary Episcopal Church, erected in 1832, is the oldest public structure in the village, but has not been used for years. The Homer Village Board is looking to change that.

The village is acquiring the church at no cost from the PCA Church New Hope Presbyterian of Vestal, but had to sign a $1, 99-year lease for the land with the First Religious Society of Homer, plus the village agreed to pay for the legal fees.

The goal is to care for and protect the church from slipping into decay, said village Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe.

At the moment, the village is waiting for state approval of the church being transferred to the village, he said. Any time a church changes ownership, the state has to approve it, McCabe added. The approval could come in the next few months.

“It’s a historic structure on the Green,” said village Board Member Pat Clune. “It helps define the Green.”

The village decided toward the end of last year to acquire the church and find a new use for it.

McCabe said the lease with the First Religious Society limits what the church can be used for: either a church, or for educational purposes.

“It could be a history museum or used for the elementary school,” McCabe said. It won’t be a business or parking lot.

“Owning it allows us (the village) to decide its fate,” Clune said.

The former Calvary Episcopal Church, erected in 1832, is the oldest public structure in the Village of Homer, but has not been used for years.

Jim McKenna, chairman of the board of trustees for the First Religious Society, said the society is happy to discuss ideas for use of the church. The society owns six acres of the Green, on which the Congregational Church, the Methodist Church, the front portion of Homer Elementary School and the former Episcopal church rest.

“We trust that the village will use the property for an educational need that will benefit the community, but we have not suggested any particular purpose,” McKenna said.

Last week, McCabe met with the Landmark Historical Society of Homer and said the society showed great interest in the church. He said it made a compelling case for the church to be a museum and he endorsed the idea.

They would set up displays in the banquet area, and leave the chapel area as it is.

“We shall see what transpires,” McCabe said. “I could see weddings being held here.”

The village will give the church to its new owner for free. However, the new owner of the church building will have to establish a new lease agreement with the First Religious Society for use of the land.

While the chapel is in good condition, there is a lot of work to be done to the building.

Paint, power, mold, a lot of clean up and more would need to be taken care of. McCabe said that responsibility would go to the new owner.

The village would like to have ownership of the church before the end of the year so it can winterize it, he added.

Village Historian Martin Sweeney said the church was the oldest public structure in the village, although it is no longer being used. It was originally the Calvary Episcopal Church, the first meetinghouse for those of the Episcopal fold in Cortland County.