Renovation work well under way at ‘Castle’

516c1956bf7bf.preview-300Posted: Monday, April 15, 2013 4:00 pm

By Shaun Zinck szinck@beloitdailynews.com

Renovations to The Castle are going smoothly.

John and Jody Wittnebel are transforming the old First Presbyterian Church on Prospect Street in Beloit into a “Castle” to be used as a community center and for performing arts.

Jody said her husband John, along with friend Jake Hamil, did most of the demolition in the former church.

“There was a lot of water damage in the south tower,” she said, adding the entire stairwell would need to be replaced.

Jody said the goal is to return the church to its original state when it was built in the late 1800s. She said they hope to finish the first phase of the renovations by June in order to start renting out space in the church.

Subsequent phases, such as redoing the roof and other projects will be done as the building brings in revenue, Jody said.

She has hired a local artist to create a 3-D type mural of a dragon near the main entrance in order to keep with the castle theme.

The rooms near the main entrance will be used for a gift shop and offices. In the basement a stage and recreation area will serve as the main location for the non-profit Youth Unite, which was founded by the Wittnebels.

John said the project has almost taken on a life of its own since he bought the building in November at an auction.

“We were really just looking for a place for Youth Unite,” he said. “We’ve rediscovered the building. In a series of additions and renovations (previous owners) covered up a lot.”

A false ceiling was built in the balcony area overlooking the sanctuary and covering up a ventilation system.

While John was working in the bell tower he found a stained glass window piece that was removed when the ceiling was put in.

“We want to honor the original design as much as we can,” he said. “It’s like you found some old car in the barn and wanted to restore it into original glory, but also update it with modern technology.”

Jody said not much demolition or work needs to be done in the sanctuary, which may be used for the Beloit Janesville Symphony orchestra performances and possibly weddings.

John said most of the demolition has been done and he will be bringing in Corporate Contractors, Inc. to look at the work needed on the second floor of the building.

The city council will vote to rezone the church to Central Business District, and for a conditional use permit needed in order house the non-profit organization.

John said he still needs to apply for a liquor license in order to host wedding receptions and BIFF events.