Manvel couple brings life back to small church

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A forgotten little church in Manvel tucked between large spreading oak trees on the corner of Taylor and Magnolia looked like a dilapidated piece of history that had sat long in disrepair with no future in sight.

Then native Houstonian Joe Bolduck and his wife, Nancy, had an idea and a renovation plan to return this small building to its former beauty. It took six long months of working seven days a week but on Aug. 20 that little church building was the site for a very special event in the Bolduck family.

Joe’s parents, Al and Irene Bolduck, celebrated their 70th anniversary there along with 75-plus relatives and friends.

The renovation venture was not a first for the Bolducks. Recently they completed an eight-year renovation on their home on Magnolia in Manvel. The residence, named Magnolia House 1923, was in horrible condition when the work began. The couple worked on every detail to make the now showplace home a reality.

The little church was their next major project.

The church, thought to have been built around 1919, sat on the corner by their property. When the Manvel Christian Church asked if they were interested in purchasing it, they did and so began the plan to bring back its glory.

Water had gotten through a hole in the roof and done its damage. Floors were in bad shape, and there was no plumbing. Steps and windows were in need of replacement. Wildlife had scurried in and out over the years and left their own signature there.

Along with damage, the building was missing two things Bolduck thought it needed, a bell tower and a spire with a cross. With an engineering background, Bolduck was able to create these two items and once put into place, they took on the look that they had always been there.

“We kept the look original. The results are stunning and this small church now looks like the quintessential Texas rural clapboard church of the 1870’s,” Bolduck said.

The Bolducks are busy online shoppers and found the bell tower bell in Nashville where it was picked up and driven back to Manvel just two days before the anniversary party. The 300-plus lb. bell was originally from a Catholic church in the Bronx.

Antique lighting fixtures were found and with some help from Bolduck and creative thinking, were put back in to use and placed in the entry way, upstairs in the bell tower and on the altar.

The building is basically one large room with two small rooms on the right and left of the altar area.

Four ceiling fans are in the room and six outlets are placed strategically for portable AC units to be put inside when needed. Since it was built at a time with no air conditioning, the windows offer cross ventilation but summer heat could require AC and this too was thought through when renovating.

There are 11 windows with 44 panes of glass. Most panes had to be replaced but the antique glass with its ripples and shine can be spotted on some of the windows in the building. The 6-foot windows now open only from the bottom but retained their integrity with replaced rope features that are part of the lift to open the windows.

The outside wood was kept in place when possible and the new pieces added were dusted with sawdust and painted to add the look of roughly hewn pieces like the originals are. A deck was added to the back with railing and original lighting features will eventually be added in the back once they are reconditioned with years of rust removed and wiring refitted.

The floors are tongue-in groove black walnut and give an original look although the floor in the building had been totally ruined. The altar steps and side steps from the side rooms have a rim of oak that adds a two-toned look and helps those using them see clearly the steps and their depth.

“It’s a safety feature and really looks great. The original altar steps were only two and they were very steep. We changed that and added the oak making sure the steps were sturdy should many bridesmaids need to use them at one time,” Bolduck said.

While working, he and his crew have had many individuals stop by to check on what was going on and some to pursue possible use in the future as an event center. The couple has not decided what the building will become in its new phase but they realize it has possibilities.

One idea was a woodworking shop but only one member of the couple liked the idea. Another was a wedding venue or event center. The lack of plumbing could cause a problem with this or just be the catalyst for another project.

“We could put up a building on the side of the lot that had storage for tables and chairs or for the 15 original heavy oak pews that we refinished and have ready to go. Some events wouldn’t want them at the party,” Bolduck said. “In the side building could be restrooms for use during events. It would be easy to do this as a new structure, much less time to build and no renovations to do.”

While they have no idea what the future is for the church building, they do know what their next projects will be.

A new garage is planned by their home on a large foundation that already exists and then a new workshop. Designs and plans are already being envisioned.

For drivers in Manvel, the corner of Taylor and Magnolia sports a picturesque scene of a small church surrounded by huge oaks, planted many years ago in honor of WWI vets. It looks like a slice out of time and will be enjoyed by all who pass it.

Story by Karolyn Gephart

Photos by Randy Emmons