Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2017 Preservation Award Winners
divider graphic
Photo of The Ames Chapel, Hingham

Ames Chapel, Hingham

Adaptive Reuse & Rehabilitation & Restoration

The Ames Chapel is a focal point of the Hingham Cemetery, a picturesque garden cemetery and arboretum modeled after Mount Auburn. Construction of the chapel began in 1886, funded primarily by the Ames family and other wealthy summer residents. The chapel was built to provide a funeral location for families who had moved away and were returning to bury loved ones at the Hingham Cemetery. Designed by J. Sumner Fowler, a young local architect, in the Queen Anne style with Stick Style detailing, the chapel features asymmetrical massing, a steeply pitched roof, half-timbered gables, and patterned shingles with vertical and horizontal stickwork at the building corners and surrounding its windows and doors. By the 1920s, the building had largely ceased to be used for its original purpose. Serving as office space for the cemetery board and then later for storage, the underutilized chapel fell into poor condition, with a great deal of deterioration. In 1989 the cemetery directors embarked on a long-term program of restoration and revitalization at the cemetery, which included the rehabilitation of the Ames Chapel as the cemetery administrative office as well as for town-wide use as an event space. The efforts of the cemetery board garnered support throughout and beyond the community, including private donations and grants from the Hingham Community Preservation Fund, the Hingham Historical Commission, and the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund.

Rehabilitation of the chapel began with a conditions assessment and feasibility study, which revealed that critical stabilization work was needed. Structural and foundation problems were resolved, masonry was repointed, windows were fully restored, and the exterior stairs and railings were made accessible. The second rehabilitation phase focused on exterior repainting and on a comprehensive interior renovation. The main space on the first floor was transformed into an event location, with entry vestibule and parlor. Historic woodwork and flooring in all the first-floor rooms was carefully refinished or replicated where necessary. Today, the first-floor rooms feature period furnishing, wallpaper, and lighting, and restored pews line the walls of the main event space. The necessary steel reinforcement of the original wood trusses was carefully executed in order to blend in with the historic wood framing. The lower level of the building is accessed by an enlarged original staircase and adjacent ADA wheelchair lift. The lower level contains a meeting room, a small office, accessible restrooms and a kitchenette. For the final touch, the exterior was repainted in a historically appropriate scheme of green, ochre, and red jewel tones.

The rehabilitation of the Ames Chapel represents the culmination of a
dedicated community initiative to preserve and revitalize a treasured local landmark. The long-term planning and successful execution of this rehabilitation project demonstrate what is possible when a community comes together around a shared vision for a historic preservation effort.

< < 8 of 11 > >