Section: Features

Dedication to restoration

Dedication to restoration

Photo by Jack Zellweger

Quarry Chapel, also known as Christ Church at the Quarry, is a small, quaint structure of weather-worn stone about a mile and a half from the center of Gambier that overlooks vast stretches of farmlands and forest.

The Chapel hosts seven to 10 weddings each year as well as memorial services, concerts and other gatherings. Most recently, during Family Weekend, Kenyon a cappella groups Männerchor and Colla Voce performed at the Chapel to an overflow audience of more than 100. Other musical events feature local groups like barbershop quartet The Sweet Adelines. The Friends of the Quarry Chapel (a group that supports the restoration and improvement of the building) hold events to educate people about the Chapel and raise funds.

The Chapel was constructed by the same stone masons who built several of the first buildings on the College’s campus. The Chapel opened in 1863 specifically for these workers as a nearby alternate church to Church of the Holy Spirit, the Episcopal church at the College. It fell out of use in the 1920s when the ubiquity of household cars enabled members to attend church in Mount Vernon and then entered into a period of neglect and decay. It eventually became the property of the College Township.

In the 1970s, several locals began an effort to restore the church to its former state. For 10 years, Kenyon faculty and local residents, led by Jane Lentz — wife of Professor Emeritus of English Perry Lentz — worked to repair the exterior of the Chapel. Due to lack of funding and organized effort, the building remained in a semi-completed state until around 2000, when a second round of restorations began.

Ken Smail, professor emeritus of anthropology, moved to Gambier in 1973 and became involved with the reconstruction process in 2002, shortly before retiring from his position at the College. He explained that his wife was highly involved in the earlier restoration project; when she fell ill in the early 2000s, he wanted to continue her work.

“I brought my kids here to play back in the ’70s when we lived nearby,” Smail said. “It was easy to get involved and stay involved.”

The second rebuilding effort focused on the interior of the Chapel because the floor had caved in and a fallen tree had damaged the roof. Local volunteers and paid workers added new floorboards and ceiling beams made of local oak and pews to seat about 80 people. To raise money for the project, each pew was “sold” to a donor for $1,000, and the name of each contributor was written on a plaque placed on their respective pew.

Local artist Carol Mason crafted six stained glass windows that line the walls on each side of the Chapel. Each one features simple patterns and minimal colors but also intricate texturing and two roundels (small disks) etched with carvings of various Ohio wildflowers. A larger, more colorful stained glass window adorns the front of the chapel and depicts a Kokosing River landscape. Donor Susan Ramser created the design, which Franklin Art Glass of Columbus then crafted and installed.

The Friends of the Quarry Chapel board consists of 11 active members, plus one member emeritus, who oversee the building’s operations. It leases the property from the Gambier township for a mere dollar each year. The Friends group is subdivided into committees that focus on house and grounds, events, marketing and history and education.

Adjacent to the chapel are two cemeteries, one of which has been in place since the chapel’s founding. The other is a Jewish cemetery that was dedicated in 2013 and is marked by two gray stone pillars with Stars of David carved into them.

Diane Kopscick, President of the Friends of the Quarry Chapel, believes the structure is a key unifier of the local community and regards those who run it fondly. “It’s such a worthy group,” she said. “It’s a rewarding thing to do. I feel like I’m giving something, but I’m definitely feeling like I’m getting something, too.”

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