An Old Church Gets a New Life

In recent years we have been undertaking more and more adaptive reuse projects, as the Bloomington community continues to update some of its aging downtown infrastructures. One of the most exciting of these was the renovation and addition at the historic McDoel Baptist church for the Hoosier Heights indoor climbing facility

This ambitious project included the wholesale renovation of this historic 96-year-old McDoel Baptist Church, which had seen years of deferred maintenance and was in a serious state of disrepair. Instead of considering tearing it down, Joe Anderson, the owner at Hoosier Heights, worked with the neighborhood association and the Historic Preservation Commision to come up with a design and a plan that preserved the original structure entirely.

After replacing the old wiring, plumbing, insulation, and HVAC in almost the entire building and repairing and remediating the structural and environmental issues, we first tackled the original chapel, exposing the original hardwood floors and trusses, rebuilding the original windows, and adding our own woodworking elements to make the space even more inviting. This reclaimed old chapel (circa 1920) is now used as a yoga and gathering space, while the basement under the old chapel is a lounge and study area.

(renovated original chapel)

(original chapel with the newly exposed trusses and ceiling detailing)

(lounge and study area under original 1920’s chapel; weight rooms are in adjacent space)

The “new” chapel that was built in the 1960’s houses the bouldering area with what might be the coolest indoor bouldering space that I’ve seen. The basement under this new chapel now provides classroom space and party rooms, as well as a gear shop and central check-in and retail space.

We also completely refurbished the entire three-story office wing, which now houses regional Hoosier Heights offices and a weight and training space in the basement. Finally, a new 4,000sf steel building that we added behind the original church houses the “tall walls” roped climbing area.

(bouldering room in the 1960’s chapel)

(gear store, check-in area, and classrooms in the basement of the 1960’s chapel)

(roped climbing on the tall walls inside of the new building)

One of my favorite views of the building is standing on the West Courtyard. From that location, you can see the 4 different buildings, from four different eras that make up this compound. The 1920’s original building at the core, with the 1950’s office addition to the right and the 1960’s chapel addition to the left. As you turn left from there, you see the 2018 steel building addition. Together, these 4 structures tell a story, not only about the evolution of the space and its various uses but also of trends in commercial architecture in the US over the last century.

(view of all 4 structures that comprise the Hoosier Heights Bloomington climbing facility)

If you live in or around Bloomington, come to check out the facility! They offer climbing for all ages, including a youth climbing club with fantastic staff, as well as a world-class yoga space. Come out for a climb! More information about Hoosier Heights Bloomington can be found at