NAHANT — Its interior walls need some patching and repairs but Ellingwood Chapel has come a long way since the days when lawnmowers were stored inside it.
Raffaele Construction Corp. workers started climbing up and down scaffolding set up along the chapel’s exterior wall three weeks ago and Nahant Community Preservation Committee Chairwoman Lynne Spencer said their work repairing the granite walls will be completed by Memorial Day.
The $162,000 exterior repair job is part of an ongoing town commitment to maintain the chapel built 100 years ago in Greenlawn Cemetery by Frederick Wilson from rock quarried a short distance from the cemetery.
“This is a much-needed project to help preserve one of Nahant’s most historical buildings,” said Town Administrator Antonio Barletta.
Maintaining the stone walls is crucial, Spencer said, to minimizing water damage to the chapel’s interior walls. Weather and time allowed water to seep into slight cracks in the mortar holding together the stones in the exterior walls. Intruding water spawns salt deposits and moss on the walls.
Spencer said Raffaele workers carefully matched the original mortar used in the chapel walls to preserve the correct hardness, color and even the “strike” — the specific technique used by a mason to apply the mortar.
“The object is to keep water out,” she said.
Nahant Cemetery Committee member Dave Wilson is happy to see the chapel’s exterior wall work underway. A descendent of chapel builder Frederick Wilson, he can recall when the chapel was used for storage until town activist and historian Calantha Sears spearheaded chapel restoration efforts with the motto, “We can do better.”
Her initiative led to chapel repairs and the building’s use for concerts, memorial services and weddings. Wilson and Spencer said the chapel’s interior with its white walls, stained glass windows and simple design is characteristic of country churches in northern France and Scotland. The ecumenical chapel seats about 90.
“Acoustically, it’s very beautiful,” Spencer said.
Spencer and Barletta said the restoration project is an example of town residents protecting a historic building with the $112,000 appropriated in 2018 by Town Meeting and combining that sum with $50,000 in Massachusetts Historical Commission money.
“The Community Preservation Act needs additional funding so that municipalities have the ability to maximize their dollars and can protect assets like the Ellingwood Chapel,” Barletta said.