Pine Orchard Union Chapel
Pine Orchard Union Chapel Association
Pine Orchard, CT
Main assembly hall with elevated stage and storage; entry vestibule; powder room; portico; and rear entry
Dennis M. Carbo
2022 AIA Connecticut
Elizabeth Mills Brown Award:
Merit for Exterior Renovation and Activation of Space
The Pine Orchard Union Chapel was designed in the Queen Anne style by Brown & Berger of New Haven in 1897. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2000. The 1,740 NSF chapel is an all-wooden, rectangular, one-story balloon-framed building measuring approximately 54 x 34 feet. It has a flared gable roof with exposed rafter tails at its eaves. A small, square, pyramidal cupola stands atop the roof ridge enclosing a bell. The chapel is one of the few remaining 19th Century historic houses of worship built along the Connecticut shoreline for summer residents.
Although the chapel retained many of its distinctive features, it was in significant disrepair, and critical structural issues needed to be addressed. In 2019, the Pine Orchard Union Chapel Association launched a three-year-long effort to preserve, protect, and stabilize the structure in accordance with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
As architect-of-record, JSA coordinated the comprehensive evaluation of the structure to determine appropriate levels of intervention. Retaining the integrity of the chapel’s historic character was paramount, and JSA adopted a meticulous strategy of limited replacement with new materials introduced to match original elements in composition, design, color, and texture.
Preserving the chapel began with lifting the structure five feet off the ground to repair and reinforce the main floor framing system. Numerous structural deficiencies were corrected including the restoration and replacement of floor girders, foundational brick piers, and framing members supporting the shiplap skirt. The pyramidal cupola was rebuilt. Asphalt shingles were removed from the cupola and roof and replaced with original western red cedar roofing shingles. Missing decorative latticework, cross bracing, finials, and drops were restored in accordance with historic photographs, as was the rear porch entry. The interior vestibule and large open sanctuary with exposed roof trusses, pine floors, and wainscoting were cleaned and refinished. Contemporary lighting fixtures were replaced with custom-made bronze period chandeliers. The large, multi-pane windows were sensitively restored, code-compliant upgrades to electrical and plumbing systems were performed, and a new mechanical exhaust system was installed. The chapel’s siding consisting of shiplap, plain trim board, and red cedar cove shingles was stripped and repainted.
JSA is honored to have been a member of the all-volunteer building committee acting to preserve this historic chapel so that it may continue to serve the Pine Orchard community as a meeting place for services, weddings, and musical performances.
AIA Connecticut Elizabeth Mills Brown jury awarded the Pine Orchard Union Chapel its 2022 Merit Award for Exterior Renovation and Activation of Space and commented, “(it’s a) sweet, lovely building that has been carefully preserved. Replacement of the missing details gives the building so much character.”