Historic Dayton, KY church gains new life as community events space

Nestled on a busy street in Dayton, Kentucky sits a building with an interesting history. In 1855, men brought lumber across the river from Cincinnati’s mills to build Tower Methodist Church. That building was torn down in 1914 and rebuilt in 1915. Today, the church building is assuming a new identity as Commonwealth Sanctuary.

The owners of the space, Nathan Kroeger and Jacoba Wells, envisioned a space where people could find community, religious or not. The owners, who also work out of the space, set about transforming the church into a community events space. They met Shawn Braley, co-founder of CincyStories, at The Garage where he produced comedy shows. They asked him to join the team as Creative Director and book comedy, music, and entertainment for the venue.

The original stained-glass windows were preserved, and you can still find a few pews to sit on, if that’s your fancy. The venue has a new sound system, programmable stage lighting, a concession stand, and a 150-inch rear projection movie screen. They replaced the other pews with tables for food and drinks, and there’s still a church organ in the space. The result is an eclectic marriage between the old and the new, lending to its vibes as a place for all ages. Currently, it can accommodate 100 people.

Once funding was in place and Kroeger and Wells received approval from the city, the team began building out the calendar. With the original goal to make it into a community space with free community events for the neighborhood, they’re planning activities like free movies on Sunday, bringing in exotic animals for children to meet, trivia on Mondays, and more. Braley commented, “We really want this to be a community space with events for everyone.”

Commonwealth Sanctuary opened their doors with Southbank Shakespeare’s performance of Romeo & Juliet, which ran Wednesday, June 14 through Saturday, June 17. On Friday, July 14, the venue will host its first comedy show, the official kick-off and launch of their summer programming. The venue resides in a low to median income neighborhood, characterized as ‘cast-aside’ by many. While gentrification is an issue, Commonwealth Sanctuary wants to prove you can do both: create a profitable business and create a community space.

The Commonwealth Sanctuary is interested in forming community partnerships to provide an event space for businesses and nonprofits. Reach out to Jacoba Wells at [email protected]
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Read more articles by Miyah Byrd.

Miyah Byrd is a storyteller and advocate based in Ohio. Her work has been featured in KIIONA Magazine, Forge, Human Parts, and ThriveGlobal. She is a former educator whose interests include food insecurity, green energy, and the self-sufficiency of the black community.