The building that once housed the county's first bank and then a Catholic school now will help provide extra space for the expanding parish of St. Paul's Church in historic Ellicott City.
Starting next month, the church will embark on a $500,000 construction project that will add 3,000 square feet to the gray stone building, formerly Patapsco National Bank.
The project also calls for a garden plaza and conversion of a separate religious education building into a youth group center.
The religious education building and the former school, which has not been used since closing in 1966, both occupy the same 7.5-acre site as St. Paul's Church.
The project is expected to be completed by September.
"It's going to gussy up that corner," said the Rev. Thomas J. Donaghy of plans for the former school building at St. Paul Street and Maryland Avenue.
Like many Catholic churches in Howard County, the 156-year-old St. Paul's has seen its congregation swell, as hundreds of new families move into the area each year.
In the past 18 months, the church has nearly doubled in size to more than 900 families and 350 children, Father Donaghy said.
"People are just moving in like it's out of style," he said. Catholics represent 58 percent of all new families moving to Howard
County, he added.
Parishioners said they are drawn to the church's diverse membership.
"It's a parish that has a nice mixture of ages," said Anthony Consoli, a member of the church for more than four years and the architect for the renovation project.
But over the years, the parish's lack of space has forced church leaders to cancel group activities or rent space from neighboring churches.
A small room, known as the Annex, is used for meetings, but it accommodates only about 35 people.
"We can't do what most churches can do," said Father Donaghy.
The enlarged former school building will include six classrooms, two kitchens and a multipurpose room that can accommodate up to 240 people. Parishioners will be able to hold catechism and Bible workshops, parish meetings and social functions, such as bazaars, bingo and youth group activities.
A lounge will be added to the church's religious education building, which will become a retreat and workshop center for the youth group.
And the new garden plaza will include an original vault door from the bank, which was built in the mid-1800s.
The vault door "will preserve the historicity of the building," Father Donaghy said.
Parishioners already are looking forward to October, when they hope to dedicate the renovated building.
"It's exciting to see this wonderful old building be put to use," Mr. Consoli said.
It's giving "new life to the parish and to the city."