By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — Sitting in the center of the town of Greenville is a historic gem that is in the process of regaining its luster.
Prevost Hall, built in the 1840s as a church — which the structure remained until the 1990s — is being restored and reimagined as a community center where concerts, plays, community meals and other events will one day take place, according to Bill Von Atzingen, president of
Community Partners of Greenville, the not-for-profit group that is spearheading the restoration project.
But that is no easy task. The building, located on Route 32 at the center of the town, is in need of repairs, from a new roof to restored stained-glass windows to installation of modern conveniences like a handicap-accessible bathroom and a kitchenette.
The years-long restoration project, which has already seen many repairs completed, remains ongoing. Advocates of the building, which is on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Greene County Historical Register, say the project is a labor of love and well worth the effort.
They envision community events taking place in the building with its soaring bell tower, stunning stained glass windows that are more than a century old, and historic heritage.
“We are working on turning the building into a venue where we could have art, music, lectures, possibly a play or two — that’s our long-term goal,” Von Atzingen said. “Right now, we just want to secure the building so it is stabilized.”
The building has already made its debut since the restoration project began several years ago. In the summer of 2022, the first-ever Arts Around Greenville Studio Tour was hosted in the town, with visitors beginning their tour of Greenville’s art studios in Prevost Hall and then heading out around town to visit artists’ studios and learn about their artistic process.
In the summer and fall of last year, there were musical concerts hosted at the gazebo at Veterans Park at the intersection of Routes 81 and 32, but when the weather was inclement Prevost Hall was the alternate site for the concerts, and provided public bathroom facilities throughout the concert series.
In November 2022, on the day after Thanksgiving, the building was used for an event it hadn’t hosted in years — the traditional visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus for the community’s youngest residents.
PREVOST HALL HISTORY
Prevost Hall was originally the Greenville Presbyterian Church, a role the structure served in for over 200 years.
The church was organized on May 19, 1790, and in 1793 congregants built the church’s first structure northwest of where Prevost Hall now stands, but that building was never completed, local historian Audrey Matott said at a May 2022 presentation of the Greenville Local History Group.
Several years later, in 1800, Major Augustine Prevost gifted two acres of land to the town, where Prevost Hall now stands, with the restriction that the land be used for “religious and educational use,” Matott said.
The original Greenville Presbyterian Church was built on the site, but the building burned down in a fire in January 1859.
The following year, a new church was built — the structure now known as Prevost Hall.
Over the years, extensive repairs were made to the building, including repointing of the foundation, and repairing the stained-glass windows and steeple, throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
“Almost all of the damage to the steeple had been caused by years of pigeons nesting in the steeple,” Matott said.
As the number of congregants in the Greenville Presbyterian Church continued to dwindle, the town ultimately purchased the church in December 2000 for $32,500.
Over the next few years, the building was used by All Arts Matter for cultural events, including the annual visit from Santa Claus on the town’s traditional day after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season.
But as the years wore on, the building’s deterioration grew, notably the condition of the ceiling, making Prevost Hall unsafe for public use for several years.
After All Arts Matter was no longer able to maintain the building, Community Partners of Greenville took over the project, spearheading repair efforts and working hand in hand with the town — which still owns the property — to restore the building to its former glory.
The group has already taken several steps to stabilize the structure, including the addition of a handicap-accessible bathroom, the construction of an exit door at the rear of the building for safety purposes, and the removal of a historic bell that was housed in the bell tower for 147 years.
The 42-inch brass bell, which was cast in 1874 by Meneely & Kimberly Founders of Troy, was removed in
April 2021 in a delicate process by Gould Erectors and Riggers of Selkirk, which donated their services.
The bell, which weighed one ton, was removed because the wooden structure that held it suspended 54 feetabove the ground was rotted through and there were fears the bell would eventually have fallen. The brass bell now sits in a local resident’s home where it is being kept before being returned to Prevost Hall where it will be showcased in an outdoor display. The bell will not be returned to the bell tower, but will be on exhibit on the grounds after restoration efforts are concluded.
The colorful stained-glass windows, which are more than 100 years old, also needed to be releaded. Five of the eight windows have been restored by Bovard Studio, a stainedglass company based in Iowa, and three more remain to be done.
“They work literally everywhere in America,” Von Atzingen said of the company. “They are one of the largest stained-glass window restoration companies in America, so this is what they do.”
Now that the bathroom has been finished, there are plans to install a small kitchenette as well.
And then there are the old wooden pews, which Community Partners is looking to relocate, or repurpose, if possible.
“We are trying to find woodworkers who could take some of the pews, or another church that would be interested in the pews, so they go to a good use,” Von Atzingen said. “In the space where they are right now, they take up much more room than regular tables and chairs. We don’t really want to just give them away — we are looking for people who could possibly turn them into tables and chairs that could be used in the building, to repurpose them that way.”
That could be trickier than it seems. Von Atzingen said the woodworkers the organization has consulted said transforming the pews into more convenient seating would be challenging because they are curved and built on an arc, but they are still considering the possibilities.
As of January 2022, the biggest project on the table is repairing the roof, particularly the section by the bell tower, where it leaks during storms. At press time, Community Partners had received two bids and were awaiting a third before making a decision, but it looks like the roof repairs will cost somewhere in the range of $70,000.
The group is working to apply for grants and is seeking donations to help pay for the project.
Prevost Hall has been a local gem for more than 200 years, serving as a church for two centuries before being repurposed as an arts venue and now, a community center that could host a range of events and activities.
For all of those 200-plus years, Prevost Hall has stood proudly towering over the town, with the public library on one side and the tiny Boy Scouts building on the other.
And it remains a tribute to the history of Greenville’s past, and now, its future, too.