This story originally appeared in the Dec. 2 edition of the weekly LINK Reader. To see this story and others sooner, subscribe to the weekly newspaper here.
Some people like to buy houses once owned by celebrities, but Zachary and Chelsea Bear reside in a place that was once the house of God.
Their house is a former church, which gives the Bears bragging rights, since God is probably the world’s best-known celebrity. Their house is on Overton Street in the East Row Historic District of Newport. They will participate in the Annual East Row Victorian Christmas Tour on Dec. 3 and 4, when people on the tour can see this house and seven other distinct homes in the area.
A religious order named the First Temple of Society Spiritualists built the church at Overton Street in 1901. The letters “FTSS” are still at the front of the house. The First Temple of Society Spiritualists had similarities to the Catholic Church, but believed in spirits and mediums.
The building became a Catholic Church in the 1950s before a couple purchased it in the 1980s and converted it into a house in 2004.
The building features Colonial-inspired architecture and an entry gate reminiscent of The Addams Family home.
The house has 4,870 square feet of living space with four bedrooms, two full bathrooms, one half-bathroom, and an attached, one-car garage. All flooring and woodwork are original.
Beyond the four rooms, there is a spacious living room with a pool table and two sofas, adjacent to the dining room. The area has six stained glass windows, a reminder of the home’s history.
In the back of the dining room are a bar, a kitchen, and a stairway to a wall that the Bears named “Stairway to Heaven.” The wall features a poster, and the kitchen is where the pulpit once was.
Past the kitchen is a home gym, a laundry room, a half bathroom, the entrance to the garage, and the entrance to the unfinished basement.
The old choir loft, the home’s upstairs, features the master bedroom with a walk-in closet, a bathroom, and a small area with chairs.
The Bears have owned the house for three years. Zachary grew up in Eastern Kentucky, attended Louisville Medical School, completed his medical training in St. Louis, and currently works as an ENT specialist physician with Mercy Health in Cincinnati.
Chelsea grew up in South Carolina, is a nurse, and is in a doctoral nurse anesthesia program.
The couple met while living in Anchorage, Alaska. Both love to hike, travel, indulge in the food and drink the area has to offer, lament every college football season, and occasionally scuba dive.
They moved to Cincinnati to be closer to family and friends, though their hearts still very much remain in the mountains. The couple initially lived in an apartment in downtown Cincinnati and began casually browsing Zillow shortly after their move.
“We saw the church house and thought, ‘No way. This thing is beautiful. We have to go see it,’” Chelsea Bear said. “Admittedly, we had no idea we would be into buying a property so unique. There is no yard. This does not bother us at all. The other highlight, however, was that it was in a neighborhood we had fallen in love with. We would run across the Purple People Bridge from our apartment multiple times a week, into the East Row Historic District. The stars just sort of aligned and we took the leap of faith.”
The couple plans to make some changes to their house. They will convert the basement into a livable apartment, and replace some or all of the outside siding. The Bears said they also plan to build a deck on top of the garage.
Above all, the couple said they love their house and living in NKY.
“We love its uniqueness. It fits our personalities quite well,” Chelsea Bear said. “It really is low maintenance, city living at its finest, in a single-family home. The best of both worlds. One of the best features of our home is the neighborhood.”