OAKLEY — Matt Sagers and his wife, Krista, jumped at the opportunity to purchase the old red brick church building on North Church Avenue last year when it came up for sale.
The Sagers began demolition two days before Thanksgiving in 2018 on the former Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward house and Oakley Valley Senior Center after helping the senior center to a new building.
By the end of four months and with the help of their seven sons, ages 15 to 30, they had turned the old church into a home with an open-concept great room with kitchen, dining and living room spaces, three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The Sager home will be open to the public for tours on June 15 and will be one of about eight homes featured during the 45th Oakley Historic Home Tour.
Some of the homes are within walking distance, but others will require transportation, said Marge Woodhouse with the Oakley Valley Historical Association.
The museum will be open, and a brief performance of past musical selections — included in the ticket price — will be at 1 p.m.
Food can be purchased at Oakley establishments or participants can pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it at the park.
Echoes from the past
For the Sagers family, the 1911 church represented more than just the opportunity to reclaim a historic building and make it their home: Matt Sager’s grandfather Wilford Sagers was the seventh Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bishop to sermonize at the church’s pulpit.
“My dad remembers being here as a 5-year-old when it was a church,” he said.
The building was used as a church for 44 years and for 19 years as the Oakley American Legion hall. The Oakley Senior Center purchased it in 1980, and over the years, the building had undergone renovations, he said.
“We were looking for a place to buy and I love the history of old buildings,” Krista Sagers said.
The costs of the renovations, with most of the labor performed by the Sagers family, so far has come to about $50,000, Matt Sagers said.
“Many people in town thought it was just going to be torn down,” because the building previously had been deemed not suitable for commercial use, his wife said.
Some community members warned them that it was haunted by ghosts.
“We love it,” she said. “People said it’s haunted, but it’s not.”
Her husband said the rumors likely started because the building had sat abandoned for a period of time.
The family had a structural engineer check out the building and with steel supports covered by faux beams to correct a leaning wall, the building is now safe for residential use, he said.
The couple previously built three homes and Matt Sager had worked in cement construction — and their sons all had some construction experience.
“Krista is an amazing general contractor and designer,” he said.
The tall ceilings in the great room were finished with shiplap placed at 45-degree angles, and the large beams add an additional design element.
Krista Sager calls the style of the interior “modern farmhouse,” and the finishes exhibit rustic country charm.
Many of the finishes were chosen for their low cost, she said, to keep the project within a strict budget. Her husband created the concrete countertops.
Other cost-saving features include using some wooden shelving in the kitchen for supplemental storage instead of purchasing more expensive cabinets, she said.
As with the renovation of any old building, there were surprises, she said, such as the tar paper they found glued to a fir floor they wanted to reclaim.
“I was down on my hands and knees sanding and crying and wondering how we were going to get it done,” she said, when a friend suggested they use a sanding machine. “By the end, we were exhausted. We’d hit walls, and every time we did, someone would come and help us and it would give us a second wind.”
Those tiny miracles kept happening and allowed the family to keep the renovations moving along, even though her husband was recovering from back surgery.
“I was in pain, but I just pushed on,” he said.
One mystery about the old church still remains.
A tower seen at the front of the home has only a crawl-space opening in the ceiling for access, but there’s no indication of there ever being any stairs. The tower room above the main living area, however, has finished baseboards and flooring.
No one they’ve spoken to remembers it ever being used.
Eventually, they want to refinish the tower room for their grandchildren.
Krista Sagers said the recent construction completed just the first phase of their projects. Future projects will include refinishing the tower, replacing the front door and creating a door and a deck at the back of the home. They also want to uncover a bricked-in large window in the living room.
But, this summer they just want to work on the yard and enjoy their hard work and, Matt said, perhaps do a little fishing.
Anyone with questions may call Woodhouse at 208-862-3495.