Historic Houses of Worship

Historic religious buildings are vital to their communities. They remind us of local history, they exhibit irreplaceable artistry and craftsmanship, and they often provide needed space for community activities and social services, in addition to serving as centers of religious practice. Yet, across the country, historic synagogues, churches, mosques, meetinghouses, temples, and other houses of worship are increasingly vulnerable to deterioration and loss.

Shrinking congregations and the steady shift of people and wealth to the suburbs from rural and urban areas have caused many closures. Even strong congregations can lose sight of the needs of their buildings, and can find themselves facing years – or decades – of deferred maintenance. In rapidly developing areas, religious buildings often occupy large central sites that are now highly valuable for clearing and redevelopment. These factors are leading to the loss of an increasing number of iconic religious buildings.

Resources for Preserving Historic Houses of Worship

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Partners for Sacred Places joined forces to collect models for reusing houses of worship no longer in religious use. As communities take proactive steps to encourage and protect sacred places, these case studies are intended to help community leaders advocate for alternatives to demolition and inappropriate alterations.