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154 year old Pennsylvania church converted to a home & artist workshop studio

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The1870 Diary

Time over money

Where to begin. So many things have been happening here at The1870 it's really tough to round them all up. Maybe bullet points will be best.

  • Our son, his girlfriend, their dog (our grand-dog BonBon) moved into the area we had been using as our studio.
  • Lots of organizing, projects, fun, creative stuff.
  • Morton and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day, low key with family in Florida.
  • Morton turned 56 on February 19th.
  • I turned 60 on May 11th and for a present, talked Morton into going to the Emergency Room.

Turns out that Morton was having a heart attack that wasn't like what you see in a movie where a person clutches their chest and falls over. His heart had serious disease that had been building up for years, could be a hereditary issue, and was so close to taking him from me.

What started as symptoms Morton put down to bronchitis, but were nothing like bronchitis, (side note, he's also agreed to never play Dr. Google again!), we went to the ER in Danville, Pennsylvania for my birthday. I'll always think of it as Morton's second birthday now and hopefully the pair of us will get to celebrate many more years together.

As tests were ran, the first EKG showed nothing. His pulse was slow, but it's always been like that. His symptoms were, and I'm going to bullet point them too, as follows:

  • Vomiting
  • Pain across the top of his back, shoulders and arms
  • Spasms of that pain where he would double over and have to lay on the floor
  • Difficulty taking full breaths
  • Weakness
  • Tired
  • Soreness in his chest area that he said was from throwing up

As I write that list, I wonder why I didn't nag him harder, call an ambulance or something. He had been doing this for a week when I finally convinced him to go to the walk-in doctor. Morton told the person that saw him he had bronchitis before, and this was that. They didn't do blood work, they didn't do an EKG, why would they? He said it was bronchitis, just like before. Scripts were written and we went to the pharmacy, then home, hoping they'd kick in and start working the next day. That was Monday.

Wednesday, with no noted improvement, I phoned the walk-in place while Morton was in the bathroom, being sick or laying on the floor to try to stop his pain. He wouldn't let me in with him when this was happening. The person I spoke to said there was nothing they could do for him there and if I was concerned with him becoming dehydrated from all the vomiting, which I was, take him to the ER so they could give him fluids.

Morton heard most of this call but was still convinced his Prednisone which he was given for his bronchitis on Monday, just needed more time to kick in. 

I'd like to stress here how important it is to be safe rather than sorry. Morton had taken early retirement in July 2022 at just 55 and a half years old. He did this with a huge cost of a greatly reduced pension. We did the math, figured out being frugal as we are, we could get by on $800 a month. We chose time together now, over money. After all, we aren't guaranteed anything when it comes to time. He was working 8 to 12 hours a day, commuting with 3 hours in the car each day and his work would switch shifts all the time that was leaving him constantly exhausted. He had spoke up about the shifts and was told it would put hair on his chest. That's the day Morton gave his notice. I think he knew deep down inside that it was really a matter of life or death getting out of that work schedule.

Morton was worried about the deductible cost on our insurance. What would the walk-in visit be? What would an ER visit be? All things he didn't know that were stopping him from seeking medical help. After all, being retired means you're on a very fixed income.

Thankfully, on my birthday Morton woke up. When I asked if he was feeling better, he admitted he wasn't. He quickly changed the subject to asking me what I wanted to do for my birthday. Now birthdays have never been something I was big on, except for my 11th, which is another story for another time. Today, that birthday, there was only one thing I wanted. The ER.

Morton was going to make excuses, stall, said he needed to take a shower and moving around would probably make him feel better. This was my birthday though, so I had wiggle room in being a bossy wife. Within five minutes he was dressed and we were on our way. I called both our children to let them know what was happening.

The staff at the hospital couldn't have been kinder, more professional and quicker to discover after 4 EKGS and one happening during a spasm he had in the ER, it was his heart. It was a sneaky and hard to spot heart attack, but the diagnosis melted together with the next several days of procedures to see if stents would work to open his 99% blocks, they wouldn't. It would be heart bypass surgery on Monday, a week after he was sure he had bronchitis.

Instead of a quadruple bypass, he needed a quintuple bypass. It was eight hours in the operating room, one of the longest days of both our lives and I was comforted by the fact that he was sleeping through it and finally getting rest after a couple weeks of pain.

Seeing him about 8:30 pm after a day of waiting rooms, TikTok (HUGE GIANT THANK YOU to all our TikTok family), thinking the most positive thoughts I could and just breathing, even with the tube down his throat, his eyes closed, his body hooked up to so many machines and bags, I watched his chest rise and fall. A machine was doing that for him. 

This wave of gratitude almost knocked me off my feet as I sat on the chair in the corner of his room watching the nurse care for him. Gently doing everything that needed to be done, I heard in my mind the words I had read that a friend on TikTok had sent to me.

The friend had a friend that was in the hospital in a panic. She was scared, emotional and so worried about the surgery she was waiting for and told her fears to her doctor. The doctor said, and I paraphrase, "I know you're scared, but I'm not. I'm trained for this, it's my job and I'm calm. Let me do my job and you just try to relax." Even though the words weren't spoken to me, they carried great comfort.

Looking at my Morton, knowing he was in wonderfully trained hands that were calm, I knew it was going to be alright.

Now here I am, sitting on the stage of the lovely old church we call home, as he sleeps near the bathroom instead of up here on the stage. He's been home for five days now, surgery is ten days behind him and I feel as though we have both been given the gift of time. I'll put today to good use, focusing on what matters most, my Morton.

Thanks for reading this, if you made it this far. Hopefully you got something from it that might help you or someone you know. 

Hugs and love,




Time is flying faster than the snowflakes outside our window!

How is it January 2023? How is it almost the end of January 2023?  This project of ours that is entering the ninth year now is just bigger than even I can fathom and the hours go by quicker here than I've ever experienced before.

We're left at the end of each day, most days, with the feeling that we did get things done but they can sometimes seem almost invisible. The notebooks filled with notes of what to do today, how much money this or that project is going to take and the general maintenance, cleaning and care for a place this big is something I find almost impossible to get my head around. It's never ending.

So why are we doing this job that has no end? Because it's our drive, our dream, our love of turning a vision of how we want to live our lives into our reality.

It doesn't leave the time to do certain things, I prioritize but get that wrong almost every day. This diary is proof of that. 

But after almost a decade here, we're still in love with the building, the idea of saving it for future generations and sharing it with the world as our never-ending journey of organizing, cleaning, running a studio business, social media time constraints and all the other places we spend our time, this project, this life, remains fun.

Glad you're here for the journey, the best is yet to come.

Hugs & happiness,


Autumn leaves are here

It's hard for me to pick out what I love most about this old church. The village is full of interesting & incredible people, the location is stunning, and the interior is enchanting, but there's something about the outdoors that surrounds us that continually amazes me.

No matter what the season is, it's always delightful. Autumn is definitely a favorite of mine. This year, we brought it inside.

For a longer read and a story of autumn of my childhood, please check out the blog on our site, The1870Studio to see why it's so special to me, this year and always.

Happy autumn,



Wee Small Hours of the Morning!

The sun isn't up yet, autumn is definitely here and our mind is turning to all the things we need to make sure we've done for winter.

With the cost of oil so high, we want to make sure we have enough wood cut, split, stacked, covered and ready to go in the biomass stove that has really saved us at The1870. 

Before we found this used stove, which is supposed to warm a 2000 square foot normal house, we were using about 100 gallons of oil a week and it didn't even keep the big room that's about 6500 square feet with 25' high ceilings, warm. The temperature stayed right around 55 with the oil & radiators on.

Thankfully a church miracle happened and we were lucky enough to find the used $3500 stove for just $700. The question is, would it help? I had faith, a stove pipe was put in several long winters ago and the miracle happened! This stove designed to keep a 2000 square foot normal home warm was warming the big sanctuary at the church. It took a few trick, tries and trials to get the whole thing going the right way, but now with the cheery stove burning wood we find in the woods from branches & trees that have came down, we enjoy a nice warm area that stays 68 to 72 degrees in the winter for free!

Best thing is, we can keep a pan of water, the same pan my dad always kept on his wood stove, filled with water that I add spices to, that adds humidity to the air. And it's free, just the gas for the chainsaw and the electricity to run the splitter. The stove is so efficient it burns about half the amount of wood a normal wood stove would burn. I know my dad would be so happy we have this in the church.

Rarely in our little village do we have power outages, but when we do, our biomass stoves keeps us cozy & we can even do slow cooking on the top of it.

So here I am on the second day of autumn, waiting for the sun to come up, thinking about the Autumn Tomtem I'm making today for the OctoberKraftFest happening here on October 8, 2022 and my mind is on firewood and being ready for the next beautiful season. The rest of my day I'm just going to be in the present, enjoy this gift of life we all have and make the most out of it.

Wishing you a lovely day filled with the here and now, a touch of nostalgia and a peek at what's to come.


Gathering wood inside & out

Yesterday was one of the most productive days in our lives at The1870. 

Morton was sawing trees that had fallen sideways in a storm around the parking lot, Emma & Justin, our helpers staying with us, were splitting firewood outside for the coming cold months and I was in the studio packaging orders for The1870Studio with seaglass from Scotland, fused glass we make here and some mystery packages that have been amazing sellers. 

We were also getting the Cemetery Studio set up and ready to be the inside wood carving, wood burning, and special area at the north side of the church, to get very creative while enjoying the view of the incredible old cemetery.

The outside wood cutting & splitting got a surprise when Morton hit something deep inside a large log that had been given to us by a neighbor that had trees cut down a few years ago. Though it ruined his chain, stopped the saw, he split the rest of it out to find someone had hammered two railroad spikes into the tree decades ago. It's a mystery as to why they would have done that and just how long that tree had been growing to have the two metal spikes totally grown around.

The days are filled with endless surprises here, and those two spikes will have a special place in the new old Cemetery Studio.

Happy exploring,


All the time in the world

Changes are happening in our lives so fast at the moment it feels like time has sped up a bit.

Morton has retired at 55, we are getting projects done at an incredible rate of speed thanks to him being here and having two incredible helpers with us for the month of August from Workaway. 

Behind the pipes is now an Enchanted Tiki Music Room, firewood is being cut, split, stacked and for the first time in eight years we're getting ready to actually use half of the old vestry as our upstairs studio.

Summer feels like it's running away from us faster than ever with the nights getting chilly, our windows open all the time and the church smelling like fresh air and homemade bread. The sun is setting earlier and yesterday I saw several leaves floating down from the tree they had grown on already. Time is just a feeling I think. 

With the next season right on our doorstep, as we enjoy these warm and sunny days, I feel like just for a minute, I need to allow myself to feel like we have all the time in the world, even though I know it's always later than we think.

I'm thoroughly enjoying these precious moments with Morton home, where he belongs, with all our friends online and in person, with all the changes and creating in the studio, with all the wonderful progress being made on this lovely old church we call home, I'm taking the time to count my blessings, lucky stars and let the minutes and hours just float on that fleeting summer wind.

Wishing you a wonderful amount of time to do all that makes you smile.

Morton is retiring!

If we had a church bell, I would surely be ringing it to spread the news far and wide. After working non-stop, harder than anyone I’ve ever met and more than full time since he was 17, Morton is retiring early on July 25, 2022 at the age of 55.

My heart is so happy for him, he is a bit worried because it’s his nature, but I’m so proud he’s going for it. He did the math, figured we can survive on a smaller pension (we do live very frugally and enjoy it!) and most of all, being together more is something we both want more than all the money on this earth.

There has never been one person that I’ve ever heard of, at the end of their life, wish that they had more money. We all would wish for more time, just another moment. So instead of spending at least 40 hours a week, and usually 50 or 60, plus a daily 3 hour commute in the car, Morton has decided to go for it!

Retirement isn’t going to mean sitting around in the rocking chair, though we will do a lot more of that now, because we live in this glorious old church that always needs more work, has unending projects and the great part now will be that he doesn’t have to go to bed at 7 pm to wake up at 1 am to go work a 12 hour shift. 

Morton is amazing, hard working and believe me when I tell you, the best is yet to come!

Stay tuned and enjoy the ride with us!


Pretty on the outside

Since the beginning of our journey here at the lovely old church we call home, we have known that getting the big roof done was going to be the most expensive project we’d be doing and one we couldn’t do ourselves. Any other things we did were done one the strictest economy, usually by ourselves and with no regrets that we have $90 kitchen counters made from Formica instead of thousands of dollars for marble, granite or something trendy and costly.

The outside of the church, even things like the doors that were not insulated, got frost on the insides of them and had huge gaps went on the back burner, saving all the pennies for the roof.

With the help of savings, we managed to get the roof done in 2021 and now the outside of the church, which has been neglected due to budget, is getting a makeover on a budget. New energy efficient doors have gone up in our main entrance, we still have five more to replace, but these things take time, there’s been a deck added over the studio patio creating a lovely veranda and our front steps are fully planted in free canna lilies that started off as less than 20 from a friend and now numbers in the hundreds, all adding up to the old church looking as loved on the outside as it is on the inside.

I’m hoping that you are enjoying watching our journey and invite you to connect with us on our social media to see just how beautiful this home is becoming!

Have a beautiful day!


Mystery Packages will help fund exploring our Mystery Room!

Ever since we bought this old church, we’ve known it’s had a secret or two we needed to explore. The bell tower is a mystery on it’s own, but at the very base of the bell tower, just behind the newer drywall wall in the studio kitchen, there’s an actual secret room we haven’t been able to enter yet.

What’s waiting for us in there? Your guess is as good as ours. It was probably used for storage. What we do know is that it is about 14 feet by 14 feet, will have really thick walls and we want to be able to use that space, since it’s ideally situated at the front of the church by our gardens, to put electric to the outside and a much-needed hose connection.

Our waiting to get in the room has always been because of the fact we had to replace the big roof, bell tower roof and spend so much money just to make this place watertight, we’ve not had any extras to spend on a room that might not even be useable. We don’t know what we are getting in to when we take down the drywall wall and explore the basement room of the bell tower. It’s a total mystery.

None of the locals who went to this church, when it was a church, know what it was used for. Not one clue. One said he might have carried Christmas decorations in there in the 1960’s but he isn’t sure, it might have been another part of the basement. There are two of them here.

One basement is the home of the old oil boiler that runs hot water to the 22 radiators in the vestry, main sanctuary and loft. I has four oil tanks in it that each hold 275 gallons of oil, aka black gold, and I thank our lucky stars that we have the biomass stove that is our primary heat source every time I think about that old basement. The other basement, where the bell tower holds it’s hidden room, is the beautiful 2400 square feet studio that has a split unit in for heating and cooling and is so efficient, it costs us just a dollar a day to run it in the winter or summer. Behind the stove and refrigerator, behind the wall that was built who knows when, there is a room. The mystery room.

Several months ago Morton and I fell in love with TikTok. If you use it, you can find and follow us at 

As we started using it, sharing short videos about our church home in the mountains of Pennsylvania, doing live TikTok’s and interacting with people who really love what we’re doing, something wonderful happened! We started selling so many Mystery Packages from The1870 Studio! Every day, without fail, we get orders for these Mystery Packages filled with surprises made right here, by me! It’s really remarkable, wonderful and so incredible to see the money come in to take a wall down, explore the mystery and hopefully have a functional room to use that is at the very front of the church.

Morton and I are so grateful to everyone who buys one and guess what? People are loving them because they’re buying more than one! It’s a straight up church miracle!!!

Hopefully we will solve one mystery by selling another, to our lovely friends online who see this place as something special and worthy of saving.

We truly appreciate and love you!

Priscilla & Morton

The wall came down!

Yesterday we had planned what we were going to do on Morton’s day off, but our lovely old church had a different idea for us. We were going to head to a garden center, buy a yellow rose for my mom’s memory garden and a red rose for my mother-in-law’s memory garden, stake down the dropper hose on the hay bales, mow the lawn and have a lovely day outside that wasn’t to filled with work. After all, Morton works long hard hours at his job, so his days off we try to balance with some rest for him. I try anyway, Morton is always in work mode and the hardest working person I’ve ever met.

Just as we are leaving, Morton decides to see how easy it is to take one of the loose veneer rocks off of the bulging wall that we’ve both been wary of since we bought this place. I might have encouraged him to try it too, I’d have to watch the TikTok I was making. It came out so easy, it was a simple choice to just make that wall disappear on the sunny Monday.

There are lots of videos on this @the1870studio if you’d like to see it happen, rather than just reading about it.

After 8 plus hours, with dark approaching fast, Morton had finished a huge task, mainly by himself. It’s secure, looks beautiful and is going to be turned into a TikTok family garden for all our amazing followers on TikTok who send us gifts during our lives. It’ll be filled with fun, whimsy and the best thing ever, friendships and kindness from people who love what we’re doing here.

Thank you to everyone who is on this wonderful adventure with us. We appreciate you being here.



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