Like so many beloved Portland buildings that have been lost to redevelopment, the 111-year-old Metropolitan Community Church appeared to be destined for the backhoe.
A developer had placed a bid on the property at Northeast Broadway and 24th Avenue, which, if accepted, would have replaced the Craftsman period house of worship with yet another multistory condo.
Then a pair of old college buddies came calling.
Brody Day and his business partner, Dustin Harder, had been looking for a place to start their own brewery. When they saw the church listed online, they knew they'd found the location—and the building found an unlikely savior.
"When we found out it was going to be demolished," Day says, "we thought, 'Oh my gosh, we've got to do something.'"
After months of meetings with the church's pastor, Day and Harder were given the congregation's "blessing," so to speak, and the sale was completed in April 2019. Now, this summer, the pair is opening Steeplejack Brewing, a brewpub that doesn't quite look like any other in town.
Wood from the pews is being recycled into handsome tables, barstools and taster trays. Guests will also be treated to a rare glimpse inside the bell tower as soon as they walk inside. Day and Harder opened up the 65-foot column and will install uplighting to call attention to the architecture. The feature is what ultimately inspired the brewery's name: a steeplejack, which refers to the person who bravely maintains the tallest pinnacles by ascending to their tops.
For Day, the fact that the steeple will continue to stand in the neighborhood sums up the entire project.
"While the mission is very different, the impact brewpubs and the church have on the community is the same," he says, "in the sense of being gathering places, places of authentic connection and comfort."
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