Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2017 Preservation Award Winners
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Photo of Andrews Chapel, Swampscott

Andrews Chapel, Swampscott

Rehabilitation & Restoration

The Andrews Chapel is a nondenominational chapel located in the Swampscott Cemetery, a 65-acre rural-plan cemetery with picturesque hillsides, a winding network of roads and paths, and mature trees. Establishment of the cemetery was one of the town’s first priorities after its 1852 incorporation, and it remains the community’s only burial place. The chapel was built in 1923 as a memorial to Isaac Andrews, who was a selectman and the town assessor during the early 1880s. The Andrews family donated the funds for the construction and had architect Charles Burgess design the chapel. Built in the Late Gothic Revival style, the granite chapel is composed of a nave with a centrally located entry tower. The square tower dominates the building’s façade and rises high above the nave. It has an open porch at its base, marked by pointed arches and corner buttresses, and rises through a belfry to a crenellated parapet and pyramidal roof. The interior is distinguished by an exposed-truss rafter system and stucco walls ornamented by a decorative stencil pattern. Diamond-paned, amber-tinted windows illuminate the interior, which is furnished with wooden pews and an elevated central altar. The chapel, which dominates the surrounding area as the only built structure in the cemetery, was used historically primarily for funeral purposes.

Despite the fact that the Andrews Chapel was an important landmark in the cemetery and within the town, time and the elements had taken a toll on the structure. By 2008, the chapel had fallen into a state of disrepair, with holes in the roof, water infiltration, missing windows, and significant sections of the lower walls and baseboards also missing. Action was taken in 2009 with the appointing of the Andrews Chapel Restoration Committee to oversee the restoration process. The first priority of the committee was to make the structure watertight. Using town funding, work began repairing and replacing stones on the walls and tower and repairing holes in the slate roof. After the careful restoration of the exterior, the next step was an extensive interior restoration, but there was no longer any public funding available. Thinking creatively, the committee came up with a grassroots fundraising program to reach their goals. The committee partnered with the Essex County Community Foundation to collect donations online; numerous local businesses provided in-kind donations; and naming rights to the pews, presider chairs, lectern, and windows were auctioned off. The committee’s efforts supported by contributions from the community allowed for a full restoration of the interior, highlighted by the restoration of the pews, front doors, and all ten of the diamond-paned, stained-glass windows. Other work on the interior included repairs and replacement of interior walls and flooring damaged by water infiltration and pests, restoration of the distinctive stencil work, heating and electrical upgrades, and restoration of the original lighting. The front entry was also rebuilt with new granite steps and ADA accessibility ramps matching the original Rockport quarry stone. The restoration and accessibility upgrades allow the whole community to enjoy this building’s return to its former glory.

The Andrews Chapel restoration has revitalized a treasured local landmark and allowed it to be actively used as an event space for the entire community. The project demonstrates the impact a cooperative community and group of dedicated volunteers can have in the preservation of historic buildings.

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