Church Hopping: Metcalf Funeral Chapel / Brewery VivantChurch Hopping — By Stephanie Nikolopoulos on July 27, 2012 at 6:00 am
Back in April the Burnside Writers Collective had a bit of a reunion in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when we met up for the Festival of Faith & Writing. Most of the time, we work independently, ping-ponging emails from locations with skyscrapers, cacti, cornfields, and rivers, Skyping with background noises of taxis honking, babies crying, dogs barking. On the rare opportunity we’re in the same state, the Burnside writers like to embrace our collective nature. We sit down over coffee, tea, local beer, and wine, eat sandwiches, pizza, and Chinese food, and we tell stories. We talk about our lives, our writing, and about the Burnside community. Sometimes, I grow quiet, though, because a part of my heart hurts knowing we will too soon have to part ways.
By our last night in Grand Rapids, the Collective had mostly disbanded. There were families and jobs and pets and gardens and books and responsibilities to get back to. Kim Gottschild and Larry Shallenberger and I decided to make the most of it and venture into the trendier district of East Hills, Grand Rapids. Along the way, we passed an old church that had been converted into a brewery. “Guys! Stop!” I said. “Want to be part of the Church Hopping column?” You know you’re a writer when you’re always working a story angle.
Church: Metcalf Funeral Chapel / Brewery Vivant
Location: 925 Cherry Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
History: This location has been everything from the pub that it currently is to a car garage and a funeral home. Back in 1894, Samuel H. Metcalf began working in the undertaking business. He founded the funeral home that would go on to be Grand Rapids’ largest. In 1914 the Metcalf family bout the location at 925 Cherry Street SE, and in 1916 they converted what had been a garage into the horse livery. Their white horses became famous. In 1929, America entered the Great Depression, but the funeral industry is one that never really goes out of business. After World War II, the country entered an economic boom and the Metcalfs decided to build a funeral chapel. The funeral chapel was built in 1916. The business was passed down through the family, who hired four different Protestants and four Catholics on staff.
In 2010, Jason Spaulding, who co-founded New Holland Brewing Co., turned the funeral chapel into a brewery with his wife and business partner, Kris.
Exterior design: Built of sturdy red bricks, the design of the outside is functional, practical. In other words, it’s very Dutch. To be more specific, it fits into the Traditionalist School of Dutch architecture, which was a reaction against the Amsterdam School that was popular in the Netherlands from about 1910 to 1930. If you know anything about the demographics of Michigan, the Dutch influence should be of no surprise. While the Amsterdam School had an organic, rounded feel, the Traditionalist School was a return to function over form. Brickwork was orderly, and the design was plain. The lines of the building are straight. Even the size fits into the architectural philosophy. It’s chapel size, not cathedral size. It’s intimate for saying good-bye to a beloved family member.
Interior design: For all the plainness of the exterior of the chapel, the interior design has a much more Gothic Revival feel to it. It has a vaulted ceiling, painted cream, supported by darker wooden beams. It draws your eye upward, toward the original chapel lighting. Stained glass sits inside pointed arched windows.
Photo of inside of the original chapel here.
Sustainability: By repurposing an old funeral chapel, Brewery Vivant is a sustainable building:
If renovating an old building was not challenging enough, we are also in a Historic District, a neighborhood district, on an obsolete site, and went for LEED certification on top of all that. The entire building and parking lot had to be gutted. We had to replace all the infrastructure and utilities. This has proved to be a monumental task, but worth it in the end.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally-recognized green building certification system. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED promotes sustainable building and development practices through a suite of rating systems that recognize projects that implement strategies for better environmental and health performance.
Brewery: Brewery Vivant is the US’ first LEED certified commercial microbrewery. They brew all their beer on premises and store it in repurposed dairy tanks, under the direction of head brewer Jacob Derylo. There’s even a Monk Club, where you can get discounts on goblets.
Play tourist: You can take a tour of the brewery on Saturdays.
For the last time Burnside went Church Hopping during the Festival of Faith & Writing, check out: Calvin College Chapel with Fellow Burnside Writers.
For another repurposed church, check out: Don Justo’s “Trash” Cathedral.
Stephanie Nikolopoulos blogs at www.stephanienikolopoulos.com.