Decatur First United Methodist selling historic buildings to law firm

Decatur First United Methodist Church is selling two historic structures that front Sycamore Drive to the local Williams Teusink law firm. This includes the 120-year old granite chapel on the corner of Sycamore and Commerce Drive and the 16,000 square foot home to the Decatur First Preschool. The two buildings are connected by a roofed breezeway featuring six arched openings layered in granite that rhymes with the chapel’s exterior.

Neither senior pastor Dalton T. Rushing nor law firm partner Kyle Williams confirmed a price tag for the sale, scheduled to close in June. Williams said his firm, founded in 2009, anticipates moving from its current offices in the High House across the street into the old preschool building by early spring 2021.

“We’ve been in the High House for five years, but we’re out of room,” said Williams, who’s lived in Decatur since 2002, and who’s a past president of the Decatur Business Association and former chair of the Decatur Education Foundation. “We will do some renovation, particularly to the [preschool building]. But they are both gorgeous buildings and, speaking selfishly, we didn’t want anybody else to get that property and turn it into more apartments.”

In truth both buildings belong to the Old Decatur Local Historic District and theoretically can’t be razed or suffer any significant exterior changes. The chapel, made of granite quarried in Stone Mountain, was completed in 1899 for just under $7,000 with a frontal addition added in 1916. The preschool, originally a Sunday School building, was constructed in 1948-49.

It has long been part of the church’s master plan to find alternative uses for those older structures now separate from the main campus.

“While not an easy decision,” Rushing wrote in an email, “the church overwhelmingly (over 90%) voted to sell the properties, largely due to very favorable terms and out of appreciation for Kyle’s partnership. The sale will ensure that the buildings will be preserved for generations—and the church will continue to be able to use the chapel space for its original purpose on Sundays and religious holidays, in partnership with Kyle Williams.”

Meantime Decatur First, the city’s oldest preschool dating to the mid-1950s, is moving to the main campus, the East Ponce De Leon Avenue side of the property, and will continue operating while merging with the church’s Children’s Morning Out program.