New life for Hope Chapel, Lafayette’s oldest standing church
Before and after look at how a hurricane landed a Lafayette native back home, turning a church dating to the 1840s into a home south of downtown. A public tour/open house planned in October
Today’s Based in Lafayette is sponsored by Purdue University’s Presidential Lecture Series. Paul Alivisatos, the 14th president of the University of Chicago, will join President Mung Chiang for a discussion at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12, in Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall. This event is free and open to the public with a general admission ticket. Learn more and reserve your seat: purdue.edu/president/lecture-series/upcoming-event.
NEW LIFE FOR HOPE CHAPEL, LAFAYETTE’S OLDEST STANDING CHURCH
Rachaela DiRosaria was back in her hometown in fall 2021, chased to Lafayette by the damage of Hurricane Ida in New Orleans.
She said she’d already been thinking about having a place in Lafayette that was big enough that it could serve as a central gathering spot for family where she grew up. The Category 4 storm, considered to be the second most destructive for Louisiana aside from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was giving more momentum to that notion.
Then she spotted a listing by Seeds of Hope Ministries, owner of the former Hope Chapel, a South Third Street structure that had rotated through a handful of congregations in recent years. It was only later she’d find out the building, with stained glass dimmed behind a shield of plexiglass and its weathered belfry, was considered the oldest surviving house of worship in Lafayette.
“How cool is this?” she asked. “I asked my sister, ‘Could you see this happening?’”
The initial response came from her sister: Are you sure? (Chandra DiRosaria allowed that was the essence of her first take, just not necessarily in such family-friendly parlance.) The follow-up: Why not? (Also, in so many words.)
DiRosaria put in an offer in late 2021, knowing that there’d be plenty of work to do to convert the old church into a home. The initial offer didn’t make a ripple and went unanswered before she went back to Louisiana.
“I got back, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” DiRosaria, an artist and woodworker, said. “Like it was something we were supposed to do.”
As the building sat on the market three more months, a second offer, in January 2022, went through for DiRosaria and her husband, Cyrus Giroir III.
“And the work began,” DiRosaria said.
More than a year-and-a-half later, the former Hope Chapel is a home with an attached apartment, preparing for a community open house in October to highlight the renovations.
“They did a fantastic job,” Sean Lutes, president of Lafayette’s Historic Preservation Commission and preservation advocate behind the Facebook feed, Preserve Historic Lafayette. Preserve Historic Lafayette is organizing the open house for Oct. 14.
“It's sleek, but they were very respectful of the historic character of the structure,” Lutes said.
Getting there, DiRosaria and Giroir said during a recent walk-through, wasn’t easy.