A once popular local night spot and diner is now being used as a house of worship.
And, once further renovations are complete, all that will remain of that well-known business will be memories.
Six months ago, Living Christian Church Ministries bought the former Pushnik’s Diner and Waterfall Room, more recently known as Marabelle’s Restaurant, for $240,000. Not long after a space for worship was carved out of the building at 1352 Cumberland St., the mostly Hispanic congregation began holding services there.
“I don’t know the history of the building,” said Luis Hernandez, pastor of Living Christian Church. “I talked to the last owner, who had Marabelle’s Diner and Catering. I know in the ’80s it had some flood water. But I really don’t know anything else about it.”
For the last eight years, the 138-member church conducted worship services at 370 N. Seventh St., but it outgrew its modest surroundings.
For Living Christian Church, the move to the more spacious building on West Cumberland Street is designed to better serve its congregation and the local Hispanic community.
“We moved because we needed a bigger place,” said Hernandez, a 49-year-old resident of South Lebanon and a native of Puerto Rico. “There’s more parking there. Our church is growing. We wanted a place where we can grow together. We’ve been renting. We wanted a place where we can do activities for men and women. Now, we can get 300 people, 400 people.
“We looked around. We shopped around,” he added. “For us, this was the best fit.”
Although some portions of the building appear to have gone without maintenance for some time, Hernandez and members of the congregation were able to identify a part of the building that was least affected by wear and tear, refurbish it and create a space that is suitable for weekly services.
It is a temporary solution to a more permanent problem.
“We just took one side of the building and fixed that area,” said Hernandez. “We need to build a new church there. It’s a matter of getting a loan to build a new church. We already have the drawings (blueprints).
“We’re going to go to the bank and see if we can get a loan,” he continued. “We’re talking around $1 million. I’m trying to move this for next year, to start building that church. It all depends on what happens.”
While much of the diner section of the building appears to be in pretty good shape, the former Waterfall Room is badly in need of attention. Ductwork hangs from the ceiling, windows are boarded up and debris litters the former dance floor.
“We’re going to have to tear down the roof,” said Hernandez. “According to the drawing, we’ll use the walls we have. The most important thing is the roof. It’ll have to be put higher. But the diner part is going away.”
Although the property sat vacant for the last seven years, it housed a number of dining establishments for more than 65 years, beginning with the Star Diner in 1945, then later Pushnik’s Diner and Cocktail Lounge, Horn & Horn, and D’Alexander’s. In the 1970s and ’80s, Pushnik’s Cocktail Lounge and Waterfall Room became a popular local destination for young adults to enjoy entertainment, bands and dancing.
Living Christian Church doesn’t worry about its past or the memories, just potential and the future.
“There’s still hope for restoration,” said Hernandez. “God is alive. We just need to follow God’s path. We’re trying to encourage people. If you breathe, there’s hope. We want to bring hope through our help. We want to be an instrument of God in this city. We pray for Lebanon and everything God is doing. I know we have something to do here. I know God is going to do something, I can see it.”
Hernandez estimated that Lebanon is home to more than 60 mostly Hispanic-attended churches. Living Christian Church’s mission is very much related to incorporating the continually growing Hispanic population into the Lebanon community.
“First of all, I’m trying to get people to Heaven,” he said. “That’s my job. I want to encourage them to lead better lives.”
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