Whether it’s the Queen’s Chapel in London, or the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City, or even St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City, chapels are usually thought of as places of quiet beauty.
The Chapel in the Greenlawn Cemetery use to fit in that mold, but the years and weather, have not been gentle to it. That, is the very reason that the Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery chose it to be their first and primary focus, to be restored to its wondrous beauty. Not only do they want to give it a visual boost, they want to restore it, so it can once again be used in the cemetery for services.
The Greenlawn Chapel as reflected in the circular window situated in the arch of the chapel, was “dedicated May 30, 1884”, over 133 years ago. It is very humbling to realize this stone building with its’ weathered cedar shutters and oversized cut stone steps, stands as a permanent memorial to the many soldiers buried in Soldier’s Circle and throughout the grounds.
“Our goal is to make the chapel more accessible to families for services and to be open on holidays, according to spokesperson Debbie Gambill. One of our board members, Rev. John Gowdy had pointed out how much better it would be for families if services could be held inside the chapel, instead of graveside and the organization agreed. In addition, the city has removed a shed that had been attached to the side of the chapel, and a memory garden is planned for this space.”
The chapel was initially constructed to hold funeral services for Civil War veterans and has been the setting for services of World War I veterans and countless others. Presently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the chapel remains largely unchanged from its origin.
The original wooden ceiling is approximately 25 feet high, the glass inside the deteriorating shutters is all original, as is the slate roof. The floor has individually cut stones with four stone vaults buried within the floor. During the influenza epidemic of 1917-18, caskets were stacked to the ceiling, because the ground was too frozen to accommodate burials.
The lone changes since its origin have been minor painting and electric installation and then addition of wooden pews from the Mercy Hospital Chapel, obtained by Bill Glockner.
A Portsmouth Daily Times article from December 8, 1883 read, “a church is to be erected in the center of Section 15, so that a funeral service may be held in favorable weather, where it has not been done in the city.”
The deteriorating condition of the chapel is of immediate concern to the Greenlawn Friends. Estimates for repairs have ranged from $125,000-165,000.00, depending upon the extent of the restoration. Board member, Melissa Appleton, describing the chapel says, “The Chapel is a treasure and is certainly worth preserving for future generations,”
On October 22, 2017, the Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery Foundation will have their first fundraiser to support the chapel restoration. “The Story of Us,” A Lamplight Tour will feature local celebrities portraying many of Portsmouth’s founders and pioneer families.
“This is the first of many opportunities, we plan to invite local citizens the opportunity to revisit Greenlawn Cemetery and step back into time. One hundred percent of the proceeds from this event will be directed to the chapel restoration,” says Gambill.
The nearly sold-out event will feature a reenactment of a Civil War Veteran’s funeral, by local minister Rev. John Gowdy. “Estimates have placed some 670 civil war veterans are buried in Greenlawn Cemetery. Ohio sent more soldiers to fight during this war, than any other state, with the exceptions of New York and Pennsylvania.
The Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery Foundation is a 501(c)3 corporation that can accept charitable donations and individuals can be specific as to where they would like their donation to do the most good.
Gambill concluded, “Portsmouth has so many wonderful stories of valor, pioneer perseverance, business successes and family life. A walk through Greenlawn Cemetery reminds each of us of the tenacity of the founders and we need to preserve that legacy for future generations.”
The upcoming event may very well be for the raising of money to preserve and restore the chapel, but it promises to bring back memories of another time. The ancestry of some very familiar family names are spread throughout this amazing cemetery, some of which can be learned in this Lamplight tour and other events that may be held, as the group furthers their plans to continue to restore and preserve The Greenlawn Cemetery of ole’.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext. 1928