2009-10-08 / Local & State

Florida Man’s Third Home Is Pennsylvania Church Found On eBay

By TED LUTZ THE KANE REPUBLICAN

MOUNT JEWETT, Pa. (AP) – John Pierce Archer, a devout Christian, feels right at home living in a former church in Mount Jewett, about 75 miles southeast of Erie and 20 miles south of Pennsylvania’s border with New York.

“This feels cozy and comfy,” Archer said as he showed off his home in the former St. Margaret Episcopal Church. “It’s my Fortress of Solitude.’’

Archer, a world-renown art curator whose primary home is in Palm Beach, Fla., purchased the Mount Jewett church on Dec. 30, 2006.

“I’d been looking for churches to buy for years before I found this one listed on eBay,” Archer said. An Episcopalian, Archer said finding the church in Mount Jewett was an “epiphany.’’

“Frankly, I never knew where Mount Jewett was on the map,” Archer said. The town of little more than a thousand residents turned out to be on U.S. Route 6, just east of the Allegheny National Forest. “I’ve never been in this neck of the woods before. It’s not on my radar.’’

Archer said he traveled to Mount Jewett to see the church for the first time on a bitterly cold snowy day. He completed the deal to buy the church “in two hours” and began making plans for extensive renovations and cleaning to convert the building into what he calls the favorite of his three homes in the U.S.

A native of Scarsdale, N.Y., Archer received an academic scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin where he majored in business and minored in art history.

His college minor “ended up being my vocation in life,” Archer said.

For nearly 30 years, Archer headed his own company – Pierce-Archer LTD of New Canaan, Conn. Pierce is a family name.

The company’s staff worked with private art collections for clients from around the world. Archer estimated that the company has handled over 500,000 pieces of art.

Archer sold his company in 2004, but still works as an adviser for art collectors throughout the world. He estimates that he flies 250,000 miles every year in his role as an art curator. He soon planned to travel to visit a client in France.

Archer’s church home has stained-glass windows – many original and some replacements. Christian crosses are visible throughout the living and dining areas.

“I collect crosses,” Archer said – 113 crosses by his count.

He removed linoleum and glue-down carpeting from the church floor. He refinished the original wooden flooring. He installed a new heating and air conditioning system.

Specially designed mosaics made in Lebanon, about 20 miles east of Harrisburg, cover the rectangular holes for the unused floor heating vents.

Archer said he wanted to keep as much of the original church intact as possible.

“You still know it’s a church,” Archer said. “Yet it’s your church.’’

The open first floor with 1,300 square feet of space includes a living room, dining room and kitchen. The raised kitchen is located at the site of the former church altar.

There are several reminders that the residence was once a church. In addition to the stained-glass windows, memorial plaques for former St. Margaret parishioners adorn the walls. A pulpit stands near the raised kitchen. Church kneelers in the living room give Archer a place to knee and pray daily.

Archer said St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church was “started in 1897 and completed in 1900.’’

“Families came to this church to worship and for weddings and funerals,” Archer said. “The whole spirit of a church is love.’’

Archer converted the church’s “gathering space” in the basement into one bedroom and a full master bath. There also is room for bunk beds and the only pew that came with the purchase.

“It’s rustic. It’s nothing fancy,”Archer said in describing the basement renovations.

Archer also has made major exterior improvements and has painted the building barn red.

Archer and his wife, Debra have four daughters, two sons and five grandchildren. There have been several family get-togethers at the Archer “church” home in Mount Jewett.

“I love Mount Jewett and my family loves it,” Archer said. “I plan to spend more and more time here. Living in Mount Jewett has changed my life for the better.

“I’m convinced that God brought me and my family to this church and Mount Jewett for reasons that are still unfolding.’’

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