The Smith Memorial Chapel, located in Durham, NH, was built for and named after Hamilton Smith by his wife, Alice Congreve, in 1900. From their marriage in 1886, Hamilton and Alice Smith lived in England for ten years, where Hamilton worked and lived in mining operations in South Africa. He had a home in New York and by the end of 1895, Hamilton acquired property in Durham to create a country estate (next post). On the Fourth of July in 1900, Hamilton and a family friend went boating downriver on the Oyster River, in Durham along with his two dogs Hana and Joy. While attempting to free the boat after it ran aground, he suffered a fatal heart attack at just 59 years old. Almost immediately, his widow Alice funded a memorial chapel to her late husband on the family cemetery. The Gothic Revival chapel features amazing lancet stained glass windows and stone buttresses resembling old English chapels. Also on the grounds of the cemetery are the burials of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their beloved dogs, marked by small gravestones. The property, including the small cemetery in which both family members and pets are interred, remained in the family until 1979, when it was donated to the town.
A Roman Catholic parish was established in the South Coast/Cape Cod area by 1830 in Sandwich, where a large glass company employed a number of Irish immigrants. Over the course of the 19th century, several mission churches were established, and eventually a second parish, St. Patrick’s, was established in Wareham in 1911. Soon after, a mission was established in nearby Marion to serve the summertime Catholic community there. A parcel of land was acquired by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Fall River and they hired architect Matthew Sullivan to furnish plans for the small church. Matthew Sullivan (1868–1948) trained in the office of Edmund M. Wheelwright, Boston City Architect (1891-1894). Sullivan succeeded Wheelwright as City Architect and served in that position from 1895 to 1901, when he became a junior partner in the firm of Maginnis, Walsh and Sullivan, which was widely known for its ecclesiastical work, where he too specialized in religious buildings. St. Rita’s Roman Catholic Church is an example of an early 20th century chapel in the Craftsman style, characterized by eaves marked by long projecting rafter tails and a bold entry framed by Tuscan columns.
In the mid-to-late 1800’s, Rye Beach on the coast of New Hampshire was a popular summer residences for wealthy families from New York, St. Louis, Chicago, and other mid-western cities. Church services were important to these summer residents who united together to build this chapel, which before its construction, had to go to services at the casino in the colony (not ideal). Generally, wealthy summer residents here brought their household staffs, who lived in the many hotels and boarding houses along the beach. Some of these servants and employees of the hotels were African-Americans, who used St. Andrew’s for their own worship services and meetings. The summer chapel was built in 1876, completed that next year and is one of the most stunning chapels I have seen in New England. St. Andrew’s was designed by the architectural firm of Winslow and Wetherell. It is a unique example of a small rural stone chapel embellished by wooden trim and owes much to both the Stick and late Gothic styles. English country parish churches clearly inspired the chapel’s design and the use of rubblestone construction (likely of stones that were taken from the site) makes the building pop! Oh and that rose window at the facade!
Mount Hope Cemetery in Acton was laid out in 1848 as the third municipal burying ground for the town. Before that, there was a need for a cemetery between the West and South Acton villages, closer to the developing parts of town, without a cemetery of their own. The cemetery was laid out with paths following a grid pattern, with land tapering off towards the rear. The cemetery, used by many prominent families of Acton, was without a chapel for over 50 years until funds were donated by George C. Wright a wealthy resident who lived nearby (featured in the last post). Town officials proceeded to build a small building that was apparently was quite different from the vision that Mr. Wright had for the building, but Mr. Wright generously agreed to accept what had been done and presented it to the town. At the 1909 annual town meeting, the town formally acknowledged the gift. It saw some use as a chapel in the early days, but has since been used for storage and an office for groundskeeping.
Camp meetings are open-air religious revivals that began in the late 18th century in the backwoods of Georgia and the Carolinas, lasting as long as one week. Camp meetings were initially held by Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, but are most closely associated with the latter, who perpetuated and expanded the tradition after the others abandoned the practice. One of the most well-known and successful camp meeting grounds, Wesleyan Grove, was established on Martha’s Vineyard in 1835 (I featured Wesleyan Grove in a previous series). Boston-area Methodists would have had to travel to Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard to attend a camp meeting association, until local interests purchased land in Hamilton for a new campground. The first camp meeting at Asbury Grove was held in August of 1859. Approximately 2,000 people attended the first public service. According to some reports the number of attendees had grown to roughly 12,000 by the end of the week, many attendees staying in tents. This was a major event for Hamilton, a town with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants at the time. A focal point in the camp, the chapel, was constructed in 1884 in a the Victorian Gothic style, it is clad with a combination of clapboards and decorative patterned wood shingles.
Located adjacent to the Entrance Gate at Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston, the Administration Building and Chapel perfectly compliments the Gothic Revival collection of structures welcoming all visitors to the cemetery. Designed by the firm of Van Brunt & Howe, the building was completed in 1884, when the cemetery’s popularity with visitors (alive and deceased) was at a high. The building is in the Gothic Revival style and is constructed of
Roxbury puddingstone, with sandstone trim on the original parts of the building and yellow freestone trim on the 1921 addition. The building remains as a perfect partner to the entrance gate, serving as a physical portal between metaphorical life and death.
One of the most unique buildings I have ever seen is the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. The chapel, built in 1870 in the American Stick Style, is in the form of an Octagon, very unique for churches. Built as an inter-denominational house of worship, it is significant as the first non-sectarian religious building to be erected in a community that until 1870, was noted primarily for its strong association with the Methodist Church and its summer camp meeting (Wesleyan Grove) assemblies. The Chapel offered islanders and seasonal visitors regardless of religious affiliation
not only an opportunity to worship but a gathering place for cultural activities. According to historic images, the chapel once had more elaborate stick work and finials, since removed, likely due to storms and general maintenance concerns. The chapel was designed by island resident Samuel Freeman Pratt (1824-1920) who had no known architectural training besides working as a wood carver in Boston, yet his work is characterized as having a dynamic and festive style. Pratt’s other major contribution to Oak Bluffs’ architecture, the Sea View Hotel, was erected at the head of the wharf in 1872, but burned down in 1892.
Saint Ann’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Kennebunkport is possibly my favorite building in the seaside town. As the Cape Arundel summer colony of Kennebunkport was rapidly developing in the 1880s, summer residents needed a place to worship and sought an appropriate location close to their mansions. Boston architect Henry Paston Clark sketched up some conceptual drawings for a stone chapel pro-bono as he already had active commissions in the town and summered there himself. Funds were raised and the current site was donated by the Kennebunkport Seashore Company, who developed the neighborhood. The cornerstone was laid on August 22, 1887. Five years later construction was completed, and the church was debt-free. The large sea-washed stones were hoisted and dragged to the church site during the winter of 1886-1887, and work on the building began May 27, 1887. The same sea-washed stones that grace the building’s exterior were also used for the interior of the church and sacristy. The roof over the central part of the church (the nave) is framed with hard pine hammer beam trusses and the floor is cleft slate.
The Chapel in the Pines church had its origins in the growing desire by many late-19th century New Englanders to move away from the strictures of fundamentalist religion. A Universalist Society was formed in Eastham on the Cape for the erection of a new place of worship. Local families and esteemed citizens pooled resources and constructed the building themselves over five months, under the direction of an Elkany Hopkins (though sources state he died in 1885). The Victorian Gothic church has a certain flair with the turned posts at the entry, bell tower, and roof cresting. After serving various congregations and uses (including once as a coffee shop), the building was purchased by the Nauset Fellowship. In 2017 and 2018, the Chapel underwent a renovation with money raised from the community along with two grants from the Town of Eastham’s Community Preservation Act funds.
One of the most photogenic churches I have ever seen has to go to the South Ferry Church in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Built around 1850, the vernacular Gothic style church was designed by Thomas Alexander Tefft, a Providence-based architect who graduated from Brown University in 1851 before starting his own firm that summer. The South Ferry Church was originally part of the thriving South Ferry textile village, north of Narragansett Pier which developed later. During these early years, the church was a meeting place for some of the most prominent families in Narragansett. However, changes in the textile industry and transportation technology led to a decline in the village. The church was later owned by the University of Rhode Island as part of its Bay Campus.