There’s a particular spot along the Hudson River where the rocky cliffs jut out in just the right way to overlook the waters beyond. Above those cliffs, surrounded by a blanket of greenery, a chapel rises skyward. It’s majestic from the Hudson, yet perhaps even more striking when viewed up close. Only from that vantage point is it possible to truly admire the detail of the Greek Revival architecture that traces its origins back to the early 1800s in the Hudson Valley.
Known as The Chapel Restoration, the building is something of a marvel in the charming, quiet village of Cold Spring. With an enviable location along the waterfront and a structural concept unlike anything in the area, it strikes an impression from the start.
Did we mention it’s not actually a church?
Designed in 1833 by 19-year-old English immigrant Thomas Kelah Wharton, the edifice was first intended as a place of worship for Irish Catholics working at the West Point Foundry. After its abandonment in 1906, however, it lost its local purpose and fell victim to the ravages of nature and time.
Today, however, The Chapel Restoration is a not-for-profit historical landmark with no religious affiliation. Throughout the year, it buzzes with life during community concerts, performances, and readings. It welcomes couples of every belief for weddings and unites locals for get-togethers during which food and drinks abound.
“Part of our mission is to enrich the community,” explains Rebekah Tighe, one of The Chapel Restoration’s board members. “We love to have free events and make things affordable for people.”
Since its restoration in the early 1970s, The Chapel has made a quiet name for itself as a hub for international talent in the Hudson Valley. Yet the road to get to where it is today took more than a little time. In 1927, a fire tore through the property, leaving a tired shell in place of the previously striking structure. When a group of individuals, including actress Helen Hayes, purchased it in 1971, they had their work cut out for them to restore it to its former glory.
And restore it they did. With assistance by architect Walter Knight Sturges, the chapel reopened its doors in 1977. With a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, the volunteer-led space is a true landmark in the Hudson Valley.
Of course, the architecture is only half of it. Today, the biggest lure to the Cold Spring building is undoubtedly its series of concerts and readings. Since 2000, The Chapel has hosted its Sunday Music Series to make the most of the building’s top-tier acoustics. During the eight free concerts, which take place on Sunday afternoons beginning in April, the community can come out to listen to a diverse range of musical talents. In 2019, for instance, pianist Michael Musgrave tickled the ivories of The Chapel’s 1893 Steinway grand piano while soprano Coralie Gallet and violinist Akiko Kobayashi lured the audience with their melodies.
On the jazzier front, The Chapel serenades the Valley on select weekend evenings with its Jazz at the Chapel series. During these events, Americana and internationally influenced music strums along the banks of the Hudson to pay homage to the region’s early immigrant inhabitants. American tunes shine even brighter during the venue’s Restoration Roadhouse series. During this showcase, musicians like Amethyst Kiah, Lula Wiles, Gangstagrass, and Dar Williams take the stage for intimate (The Chapel fits 99 inside) concerts that honor the music of the nation. Always lively to-dos, they often feature food and drink from local favorites like Industrial Arts Brewing Company and Octavio’s Food Wagon.
For literary lovers, meanwhile, The Chapel delights during its Sunset Reading Series. Designed as informal get-togethers for locals and makers, the evenings invite Hudson Valleyites to ogle the views of the river while listening to acclaimed poets and authors read their works. In 2020, for instance, poet Jeffrey McDaniel and authors Francine Prose and Mary Gaitskill will stop by to enchant audiences in Putnam County.
“The stage is low, so you feel very connected to the musicians or the authors who are reading,” Tighe explains. “Music sounds better in there. It’s such an intimate space.”
Looking ahead, The Chapel looks forward to continuing its all-star programming while welcoming couples for weddings along the Hudson River. With breathtaking views and just enough space, it’s a delight for couples who crave a waterfront ceremony with magnificent architecture to boot.
And, Tighe points out, the photo ops are pretty incredible too.
The Chapel Restoration
45 Market St, Cold Spring