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Utah Couple Purchases Historic Hale Memorial Church At Online Auction

Peoria County
Hale Memorial Church

The future of the historic Hale Memorial Church on the West Bluff is now in the hands of a Utah couple.

The church,which the City of Peoria says needs significant work to avoid potential demolition, was purchased by Michelle Carpenter and her husband at an online auction.

"There's been so many efforts to restore it and everything, so that's how we found it. We saw it online and we fell in love with it. We thought it was a stunning building, and we went for it," Carpenter said.

Recently, the building was purchased by a suburban Chicago investment firm at a Peoria County property tax auction. The church was repossessed after Yaku Peoria, a not-for-profit art collective that attempted for several years to convert the space into a community art center, failed to pay property taxes for three years.

That group, North Illinois Investments LLC, flipped the property after discovering the extent of the repairs needed at the church that was built in 1901 in honor of a Peoria abolitionist.

Carpenter said she and her husband have long dreamed of restoring an old church. She grew up in Davenport, Iowa, a city she likens to Peoria.

They don't know exactly what they want to do with it yet, but it's likely to be kid-centric.

"My husband has helped in Utah, where we live currently, to start a couple STEM maker spaces for youth," Carpenter said.

That includes 3D printing and computer science.

Carpenter, a published author, said she would like to add the arts into the mix, too.

"I would love to try to do some children's theater, and try to make it a STEAM program," she said.

The Carpenters plan to relocate to Peoria. The couple is traveling to the city for the first time this weekend to take a look at the church, 401 W. High St.

Carpenter said while she and her husband do have their own funds set aside for the restoration, they'll also likely need community and private donations.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.