Pocono developer top bidder for century-old Nesquehoning church
“Do I have $40,000,” asks auctioneer Doug Houser of Houser Auctioneers on Saturday in Nesquehoning at the sale of the former Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. A Pocono developer bought the place, in move-in condition, at that price. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Twenty-eight people turned out Saturday for the public sale of a 105-year-old Gothic church, which included all contents, on Catawissa Street in Nesquehoning.
Andy Pedraza of Long Pond was the top bidder for the former Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Nesquehoning on Saturday. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
A Long Pond developer says he might move his operation to Carbon County after buying a century-old Gothic church building.
At a public sale Saturday, Andy Pedraza, community developer with The Lemic Group & JPCPA LLC, was the successful bidder of a century-old, 3,100-square-foot former church building at the corner of East Catawissa Street and North Mermon Avenue, Nesquehoning.
The building, built in 1914, served as Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church until September.
The sale also included all of the contents.
The building — with all furniture, pews, dinnerware and other items, such as bottles of sacramental wine — fetched a top bid of $40,000.
The brick, fortresslike structure occupies a prominent location at the traffic light in the central part of town and was used by the congregation as recently as September. It appeared to have been meticulously maintained. The property was in extremely neat and clean condition, essentially move-in condition with all systems fully functional, when the auctioneer declared it sold about 3 p.m.
Much like other houses of worship, the building was on the auction block due to the congregation’s dwindling numbers.
“We had 24 members, maybe 12 active,” said member David Hawk of Nesquehoning.
Hawk said members have dispersed and are now attending other churches in Summit Hill, Jim Thorpe and Lansford.
Among the 28 in attendance at the sale were developers, investors and contractors, all of whom checked out the integrity of the historic structure. Among them were Charles Bott of Jim Thorpe and Tom Kattner of Nesquehoning. Both admired the stability and quality of construction. The church appeared to have a newer roof and 10-year-old furnace.
Some attendees just wanted to see the place one more time, perhaps owing to emotional attachment.
“I’ve been a member here since 1950,” said Bob Pecha of Nesquehoning, now a member of St. John’s Slovak Lutheran in Lansford.
“I got married here. All of my children were baptized here and married here,” he said, recalling how he watched his daughter as she first played the church organ at age 6.
The building was sold by Doug Houser of Houser Auctioneers of New Ringgold, Schnecksville and Allentown.
The sale included an 1885 tracker-type pipe organ, a special design built to last for centuries, along with oak pews, built-in oak cabinets and numerous stained glass memorial windows funded by early congregation members.
The significance of the church’s history was not lost on the buyer.
“I plan to keep it the way it is,” said Pedraza, who said he understands the value of heritage associated with such a building. “It’d be a crying shame,” he said, referring to the idea of making drastic changes.
The church’s downstairs includes multiple kitchens, offices, baths and a large Sunday school room and social hall. One level beneath the basement is a steam heat system. Because the building was built on a hillside, the lower level is above ground at the rear and has separate double-door access and off-street parking.
Pedraza said he intends to live in the lower level with his girlfriend and a pet cat.
He is open to the idea of allowing the community to continue to use the church’s main sanctuary space, reception area and facilities upstairs.
Pedraza is a community developer with background as a Wall Street director of information technology. He also served in a similar capacity for the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae. He’s since started his own business and has been establishing a portfolio of properties which he’s turned into rental units in Lansford, Summit Hill and other Panther Valley locations.
According to Zion’s anniversary booklet, ground was broken for the church on Oct. 4, 1914, with the cornerstone placed by Pastor Reichard and the Rev. W.H.X. Lauer of Summit Hill. The first services were held in the completed building on Dec. 5, 1915.
The congregation celebrated a centennial in 2012, recognizing the founding of the faith community.