State grant shows appreciation for historic Hillside chapel

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 December 2015 at 12:00 am

File photos by Tom Rivers – The chapel at Hillside Cemetery was open for tours on Sept.21, 2014, when the Clarendon Historical Society unveiled a new historical marker for the cemetery.

HOLLEY – The announcement last Thursday that New York State would provide a $126,210 grant for work on the chapel at Hillside Cemetery should show the community that the state values historic sites in Orleans County, including the old cemetery chapels.

“I hope this opens people’s eyes that other buildings are worth saving,” said Erin Anheier, a member of the Clarendon Historical Society. “I hope it inspires people.”

Anheier wrote the grant for the state application. It was a painstaking effort. Most municipalities and organizations will hire a professional grantwriter to put together the application for state funds.

“It’s exciting because it’s such a competitive grant,” she said. “It validates what we’ve said all along that this is a valuable, important building worth preserving.”

Anheier and the Clarendon Historical Society have worked hard the past five years to raise public awareness and support for restoring the site.

The state approved a matching grant for the chapel, and the Historical Society already has about $65,000 towards the local match with $20,000 from the Rochester Community Foundation, $14,500 from the Curtis Foundation, $10,000 from an anonymous donor, and $20,000 in other local contributions.

In-kind work from the Town of Clarendon can also count towards the local share.

“We are very confident we can raise the local match,” Anheier said.

The Historical Society has identified about $250,000 in restoration work for the chapel, a Gothic Revival chapel built of Medina sandstone in 1894. (It might be the only site in Orleans County with a flying buttress.)

Amy Harris plays her flute during a reception on Sept. 21, 2014 inside the chapel at Hillside Cemetery.

The chapel is the focal point of a cemetery owned by the Town of Clarendon. The town and Historical Society want to restore the non-denominational chapel and repurpose it for new public uses. Anticipated use includes concerts, historical and art exhibits, and lectures.

Anheier said the slate roof will be replaced with slate, and some of the stained-glass windows will be repaired. The project includes painting the inside, adding lighting, refinishing the floor and adding a handrail to the outside steps.

Anheier also thinks the chapel would make sense as the eastern end of a Medina Sandstone Trail in Orleans County if municipalities can get on board with that project.

Hillside Cemetery opened in 1866 and was designed in the 19th century “Rural Cemetery Movement.” That is on the eastern side of the cemetery where the gravesides are dug into the side of the hill.

The 20th century “Lawn Style” approach is seen in the western portion. The cemetery has many beautiful gravestones that are works of art, Anheier said.

She also was instrumental in the cemetery being recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

Anheier said the Historical Society welcomes more donations and support for the chapel and cemetery. Donations can be sent to Clarendon Historical Society, “Chapel Fund” at P.O. Box 124, Clarendon NY 14429.

This picture was taken looking up from the mortuary chambers to the stairs leading to the main chapel room.