Sometimes the professional aspects of running Jones Pierce Architects intermixes with the personal — and that’s the case for one of our historic renovation projects.
Cooper Pierce purchased the Wylie Chapel in 2018 to live in (and later restore) while he built a new home next door. By the time it came to renovate the chapel in 2022, Cooper had discovered it was built around the 1870s.
Our team renovated the building, gutting the interior to the original wood framing and granite foundation, saving as many original elements as possible. We adapted the property to meet modern preferences for loft living and maintain the neighborhood’s cultural heritage with a plan for the chapel’s longevity.
Today, the chapel now serves two purposes — a place for Cooper’s mom to live and a long-term rental for artists, filmmakers and others seeking a unique place to stay as they work and live in Atlanta.
The Back Story: Initial Detective Work
In 2018, when Cooper purchased the chapel from a larger, neighboring church, he says many people suspected it would be torn down, as is often the case in Reynoldstown, a historic intown neighborhood on the near east side of Atlanta. But a teardown wasn’t in the cards since Cooper and his wife planned to live in it short-term.
Cooper studied the bones of the old church to create a thoughtful plan to renovate and adapt it into a duplex. Knowing an old building’s history can inform a renovation. Being located in a historic Black community dating back more than 150 years, there were few records about the chapel. The oldest document Cooper found indicated the chapel’s existence in an 1892 aerial drawing of Atlanta. However, the building’s construction suggests it came to be in the 1870s alongside neighboring homes of that era.
Renovation Reveals Challenges and Opportunities
During the chapel’s renovation, Jones Pierce’s team made many discoveries. One was making a note of the infill framing between the heavy timber posts and roof trusses set 14 feet on the center. The framing indicated there were large, original window openings, measuring 5 feet wide x 5.5 feet tall, that had been filled in for smaller windows.
Our team also discovered the original pier footing and 8 x 8 feet wide posts in the internal corner of the chapel’s bell tower that had been cut down to the underside of the main roof gable. The building cornerstone that had been previously removed provided a window to the original wood lap siding underneath the existing exterior brick. Judging by the texture, the brick veneer is like what was used on 1930s-era homes, suggesting an earlier renovation. When the brick was added, the larger window openings remained and, at some later point, the brick was infilled and smaller windows installed.
Designing Two Loft Living Spaces
As we renovated and converted the chapel into two units, we set out to restore some of the building to its original construction. We restored the large window openings and kept two smaller windows for the bathrooms at the front of the chapel. We didn’t have original photos of the chapel bell tower to know precisely what the tower looked like, but our design was complementary to the structure and period.
The chapel’s roof was severely compromised and had to be replaced, but the original trusses were intact and remained exposed on the interior. Per Atlanta’s building codes, we needed to add a new entry vestibule for the rear loft unit and a screened-in porch facing the backyard fronting Lang Carson Park. The replacement mezzanine protrudes out the front wall to become a roof for a new front porch.
Our team added a new porch to the Wylie Chapel’s front unit, building it over the original brick steps so the tenants could enjoy the outdoors and engage with the Reynoldstown community. The new central demising wall (the partition wall separating one tenant’s space from the other’s) allows each tenant to enjoy the full expanse of the roof and exposed trusses, which offers unique attributes to each loft.
Architecture Expertise Spans Old Buildings and Modern Ones
We hope you enjoyed learning more about the Wylie Chapel project and its personal connection to our architectural firm.
If you own a historic home or building — or a newer property needing a full renovation or a more modest refresh — we’d love to help you! Contact Cooper Pierce at 404.446.3882 or email us to schedule a “get to know us” call.
Want to See More Interior Images?
View Minty Living’s property page. The “Holy Grail” property name and enticing description lead-in always make us smile.
Hallelujah, your prayers have been answered — you’ve found the holy grail of homes-away-from-home! This former chapel (a testament to the power of great design) boasts soaring cathedral ceilings, 1 bed/1.5 baths, and a chef’s kitchen. There’s also a heavenly loft with sunny work and lounge areas. If you worship at the altar of physical fitness, the BeltLine running, walking, and cycling trail is just one block west and will lead you to divine restaurants and shops as well. What a blessing!