Star of Bethlehem formed in city in 1900
One of Beacon’s historic Black congregations is seeking to turn a former bar and restaurant near the Mount Gulian Historic Site into its permanent church, two years after selling its longtime home on Main Street because of parking limitations.
The Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church, which is holding services at the former Tallix Foundry property on Hanna Lane, has applied to the Fishkill Planning Board for a special-use permit to resurrect 37 Lamplight St.
A plan to buy the site in 2020 was disrupted when the pandemic forced churches to close, said Rev. Daniel Blackburn, the church’s pastor.
Now vacant and surrounded by overgrown vegetation, the two-story, 12,000-square-foot brick building formerly housed Mary Kelly’s Irish Restaurant and an eatery and banquet hall called Chateau Beacon.
In recent years its owner, 37 Lamplight Street Associates, has marketed the building and its 2 acres as a prime location for a brewery, highlighting the site’s capacity to cater events for up to 200 people on the second floor, a 140-seat bar and restaurant on the first floor and a full kitchen on the basement level.
For Star of Bethlehem, born in 1900 when its founders began worshiping in a private home on North Avenue, the property represents a new start.
The church held services for more than 60 years at the former Mechanics Savings Bank building at 139 Main St., until its leaders sold the building in 2021 to Hudson Todd LLC, one of Beacon’s largest property holders, for about $1.25 million.
At the time of the sale, Blackburn, who was hired as pastor in 2019, estimated that half of the Star of Bethlehem’s members lived outside of Beacon, some as far away as Sullivan County.
He said that older members increasingly struggled on Sunday mornings to find parking near 139 Main St., which sits among a cluster of shops and restaurants that draw residents and day-trippers. The Lamplight Street property has 79 parking spaces, according to a description at LoopNet.com.
“Having to walk a block, two blocks for parking on a Sunday in the 90-degree sun or the 9-degree cold just didn’t work well for us,” Blackburn told the Fishkill Planning Board on Sept. 14. “We believe that this building is the answer to our prayers.”
In pursuit of a new home, Star of Bethlehem lost out on a bid for the Reformed Church of Beacon building on Wolcott Avenue, which the congregation sold to a company that is developing the property into Prophecy Hall, a hotel and event space projected to open as early as 2025. The congregation also looked at a property in Wappinger.
The site in Fishkill is in the town’s Restricted Business zoning district, whose principal uses include hotels, professional offices and restaurants, but allows houses of worship with Planning Board approval of a special-use permit.
Blackburn and Barry Simmons, who chairs the church’s Board of Trustees, said they would remove the bar to create space for Sunday services but otherwise leave the interior intact.
“We like the building but we hate the condition that it’s currently in,” Blackburn told the Planning Board. “We will make sure that it is representative of Fishkill — that it will be well-maintained and not be a continued blight on that area.”