Chapel reopening restores memories

September 09, 2004|By Kevin T. McVey | Kevin T. McVey,SUN STAFF

Years after walking the aisles and kneeling in the pews of St. Michael's Chapel at the Hannah More Academy, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens and other alumnae returned there yesterday for the reopening of the restored Reisterstown landmark.

For Owens and many others, the ceremony at St. Michael's meant more than the renovation of a landmark. Owens spoke about how the chapel was a fixture in her days at the Episcopal boarding school for girls.

"This chapel was the heart of the school and meant so much to thousands of women," she said. "We started every day at school here in this chapel."

Twenty-six years after being deconsecrated, the newly renovated chapel, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places, reopened yesterday after a $1.2 million renovation that began in January last year.

Residents of the surrounding community, who have pushed for more than 20 years to save the chapel, were joined by Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. and others for the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The reopening of the landmark also represented a day of accomplishment for the community, Smith said.

"It is amazing how much allegiance everyone has to the landmark," he said. "To the people here today and others, the history of this community is written in a building like this."

Councilman T. Bryan McIntire of Baltimore County's 3rd District and members of the Maryland Historical Trust, Baltimore County Historical Trust and the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission also participated in the ceremony.

McIntire spoke about the chapel and its place in the community. St. Michael's Protestant Episcopal Church began in 1853, McIntire told the guests, when the Rev. Arthur Rich sought an increased religious presence at Hannah More Academy. New York architect John Priest completed the chapel in 1854. McIntire praised those who created St. Michael's and said he expects the building to remain a site of weddings and meetings.

"I hope that we can pick up where they left off and find use for this beautiful building," McIntire said.

The old Hannah More Academy merged with St. Timothy's School in the mid-1970s, and the present Hannah More School, where St. Michael's is located, opened in 1978.

Work done on the chapel included the replacement of damaged shingles, which had allowed rain to seep through the roof and destroy the inside of the building. The renovation also included the removal of chimney bricks.

Among those attending yesterday's event was Frances Rich Tyrrell, the granddaughter of founder Arthur Rich, and her husband, Henry Tyrrell. Frances Tyrrell attended Hannah More Academy for four years, and she and her husband were married in the chapel Dec. 13, 1941.

Although it is not the same chapel, she believes the repaired building is close.

"It is still very similar," she said. "And the architecture is what makes it so unique."

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