The Beautiful History of St. Matthew's Chapel of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire
Bob Jensen at Trinity University
Sugar Hill, New Hampshire --- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_Hill,_New_Hampshire
Saint Matthew's Chapel in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire --- http://www.stmatthewsnh.org/
One of the most photographed churches in New England
is less than a mile down
the road from our cottage.
It's called St. Mathew's Chapel on Highway 117, and throughout its history this chapel meets on Sundays in the summer season using visiting Episcopal church ministers, bishops, and other volunteers..
Quite often Erika and I attend the summer services in this chapel.
Construction of this chapel began with the laying of the cornerstone in 1893. But the history of this chapel really begins way back to a forest clearing of a single farm by Moses Aldrich.
The first permanent resident of Sugar Hill in New Hampshire's White Mountains allegedly is pioneer Moses Aldrich who in 1784 allegedly arrived on horseback and built a crude log cabin in a forest. His father, William, had passed through this forest in 1780 shortly after the American Revolution, but it was his son Moses who cleared an acre of virgin timber and planted wheat which gave him a homestead claim to the land under rights known as "pitch" land ownership. In truth the dates are uncertain and conflict with an old gravestone date that has William Aldrich being born in 1770. It may have been years later when all this took place or William's date of birth may be incorrect on the gravestone.
An exhausted and discouraged Moses Aldrich later left to rejoin his wife Sarah in Richmond, NH. It was Sarah who persuaded Moses to return to his pitched acre of land and cabin with her in a wagon of belongings pulled by an ox and a cow. They later made a land deal with a Henry Hoskins who had a land grant from the British King's Governor. Benning Wentworth. Part of the land deal was Hoskins' acceptance of a homespun wedding coat plus some notes. And thus it came to be that Moses and Sarah Aldrich became owners of what later would be called the Elm Farm that had to be cleared of timber for farming land. In 1802 they built a farmhouse and later a primitive barn. Sarah is credited with discovering what was later called the Gibbs Spring that provided the first water before a pipe was built up to Ore Hill for water. Sarah's only daughter had died but on the Elm farm her niece Jerusha came to live on the farm.
It's not at all clear how Moses and Sarah made a living growing wheat in the rocky and short-seasoned Elm Farm not suited for wheat. Farming for Moses Aldrich probably was a sparse back-breaking living supplemented with timber sales. You can read more about the Elm Farm and its evolution into the Homestead Inn at the following two sites:
Part 1 of the History of the Homestead Inn Torn Down in 2015
Part 2 of the History of the Homestead Inn
Nowhere can I find the date and information about the origin of a nearby hotel called the Miramonte Hotel which was built slightly (less than a quarter mile) to the north and east of the Elm Farm house. There are various spellings of the name of this hotel, but I think the correct spelling is Meramonte Inn. It was a very plain hotel with over 50 very small rooms.
In disrepair the Miramonte Hotel gave way to more elegant Sugar Hill hotels and was torn down in 1913
Meanwhile in 1880, about a half mile south of the
Elm Farm, construction commenced on a much larger hotel and resort that became
known as the Sunset Hill House Resort.
That hotel had over 300 beds, a golf course, a casino-bowling alley, and numerous outbuildings.
With the help of my friend Ron Resden, who worked in
the waning years of the SHH Resort near the end of its life, I've written a goodly
amount of the history of that resort (our cottage sits on the former site of the
big hotel). But to make a long story short, the following quotation describes
how the owner of the Miramonte Hotel and a regular guest at the SHH Resort
interacted to conceive the St. Matthew's Chapel on land donated across the road
from the Miramonte Hotel ---
In the 1880s the summer population of Sugar Hill—one of the famed summer resorts in the White Mountains—swelled to nearly 1000 as city folk flocked to its four grand hotels and several smaller ones. Often families came for the entire summer. Although visitors longed for their traditional church services, the closest Episcopal church was in Littleton, a lengthy trip by horse and wagon—not much faster by “motor car”. For several years Episcopal services were held in the ballroom of the Sunset Hill House. Eventually a committee was formed and money raised to build an Episcopal chapel on the land donated by Mr. Reeves, who owned the large Miramonte Hotel just across the road. The architect was Jonathan Withers of New York City—for a “building of simple design”. The cornerstone was laid in 1893, and on August 30th of the following year the chapel was dedicated at a special service. The building was painted dark red and had a solid stone foundation. At first there were only wooden benches to sit on. The window behind the altar was not really stained glass but was of paper colored to look like stained glass. In time a beautiful window was given and real church pews were installed. In time the solid foundation was found to attract moisture and was replaced with the stout underpinning covered with lattice work that we have today. Eventually also the original dark red color gave way to white.
Ron Resden forwarded the following photograph of the laying of SM Chapel's cornerstone in 1893
The longtime head of the Sugar Hill Museum, Mrs. Kathering H. Bigelow, located pictures of the following cornerstone-laying program
Thus a woman named Mrs. Bradford Hardon regularly staying at the SHH Resort persuaded her cousin (Francis B. Reeves) to donate part of his farm for a new Episcopal summer chapel. She then persuaded another regular SHH Resort guest (Jonathon Withers) to create architectural drawings. The resulting Saint Matthew's Chapel was originally dark red when it was consecrated in 1894. Over the years an organ was added, and the imitation stained class window behind the alter was soon thereafter replaced with genuine stained glass. Unpainted wooden benches were eventually replaced by pews, and handsome wood paneling on the walls and ceiling made this a warm and attractive small chapel. Summer services were, and still are, conducted by visiting Episcopal ministers whenever possible. The chapel is a popular wedding site as well.
Ron Resden also sent these photographs of the completed building in1907-1910
Below is the backside of a 1910 postcard. The left fork of the road ultimately became NH 117. The right fork is now a local Blake Road.
Other folks provided me with some early pictures of
the St. Matthew's chapel
I thank Holly Haywood for the early colored picture below (when the chapel was still reddish)
Holly Haywood, who still lives on land that was part
of the original Elm Farm, wrote the following:
"This is the photo i was telling you about. It is my Grammie and her sister, Marcia looking down 117 at St Matthews. By "Grammie" I mean Esther Tefft Serafini.... my grandmother."
The young ladies were looking down the dirt road that eventually became part of Highway 117
To their right (south) of the road sign is the start of what became Sunset Hill Road
The highest mountains in the Kinsman Range background shown below are (left to right) Garfield, Lafayette (the tallest), Lincoln, and Cannon (west of Franconia Notch)
A board walk was eventually constructed from where
the two young women above were standing while looking down toward the chapel
Behind them to the right is the Elm Farm house that eventually was expended into a small hotel called the Homestead Inn
Holly's mother, Barbara Serafini, was raised in the Homestead Inn
I mentioned earlier that the Homestead Inn evolved from reconstruction of the
old Elm Farmhouse
Years ago there was a maple-lined boardwalk leading down from the Homestead Inn to the Saint Matthew's Chapel.
Guests at the Homestead could walk to church without getting their shoes muddy
I've never been able to find when that boardwalk was constructed or when it was removed.
The boardwalk, the row of trees, and the Homestead Inn are now gone.
But St. Matthew's Chapel lives on
Although it started out reddish in color, eventually the St. Matthew's Chapel for decades became white and remained white with yellowish entrance doors
Saint Matthew's Chapel Gallery --- http://stmatthewsnh.org/htmlpages/gallery.html
In June every year the SM Chapel is surrounded by our famous lupine.
Over its nearly 130 years various leaders kept the St.
Matthew's Chapel going. The most recent great leader to do so was Barbara Serafini
who grew up in the Homestead Inn and turned that Inn's huge red barn into
a popular business and museum called the Sugar Hill Sampler ---
For many years Barbara played the St. Matthew's Chapel organ, lined up the visiting preachers, organized volunteers, and supervised the maintenance of the building and lawn.
Sadly our good friend and neighbor Barbara succumbed to cancer recently. Her huge Sampler barn now stands empty.
The Sugar Hill Sampler is closed forever.
Now in Summer of 2019 the St. Matthew's Chapel is facing probably
its most expensive challenge since being built.
This chapel perhaps cannot survive another mountain winter without being lifted up and moved aside far enough to build new foundation supports. Afterwards it will be moved back over the new supports.
This is a big project planned for the end of the Summer of 2019.
If you would like to contribute something to the expense of saving this historic chapel please send a check for any amount to the St. Matthew's Chapel, Sugar Hill, NH 03586.
Thank you so very much.
Historic Region Hotels
Sunset Hill House Resort History Set 01 ---
Historic Photographs (Set 01) of the Sunset Hill House Resort Shared by Gunsmith Ron Resden from Vermont
Historic Photographs (Set 02) of the Sunset Hill House Resort Shared by Gunsmith Ron Resden from Vermont
Historic Photographs (Set 03) of the Sunset Hill House Resort Shared by Gunsmith Ron Resden from Vermont
Historic Photographs (Set 04) of the Sunset Hill House Resort Shared by Gunsmith Ron Resden from Vermont
Historic Photographs (Set 05) of the Sunset Hill House Resort Shared by Gunsmith Ron Resden from Vermont
Historic Photographs (Set 06) of the Sunset Hill House Resort Shared by Gunsmith Ron Resden from Vermont (Golf Course)
Historic Photographs (Set 07) of the Sunset Hill House Resort Shared by Gunsmith Ron Resden from Vermont (Golf Course)
Sunset Hill House Hotel Today (now the Inn on Sunset Hill) ---
Video: The Inn on Sunset Hill (just down from our cottage) ---
Part 1 of the History of the Homestead Inn Torn Down in 2015
Part 2 of the History of the Homestead Inn
The Sugar Hill Sampler --- http://www.cs.trinity.edu/rjensen/Tidbits/2009/Tidbits090303.htm
Set 1 photographs of other hotels near our cottage ---
Photographs of the Mittersill Alpine Resort, New Hampshire ---
Photographs of the Scenic Mountain Village of Jackson, New Hampshire ---
Pictorial of a Wedding at the Wentworth Country Club Resort, New Hampshire
History of The White Mountains --- Set 02 (with photographs of popular mountain hotels)
Photographs of the Trapp Family and Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont
Erie Canal Houseboat in New York and the Spouter Inn in Lincolnville Beach, Maine ---
Houses and Farms
photographs of Houses Near Our Cottage
Includes photographs of the dairy barn that film star Bette Davis hauled from Vermont and reassembled as her house on nearby Butternut
Set 1 of an Ugly Prefabricated House with Great Views
Set 2 of an Ugly Prefabricated House with Great Views
More of Bob Jensen's Pictures and
On May 14,
2006 I retired from
Trinity University after a long and
wonderful career as an accounting professor in four universities. I was
generously granted "Emeritus" status by the Trustees of Trinity University. My
wife and I now live in a cottage in the White Mountains of New Hampshire ---
Jensen's Blogs ---
Current and past editions of my newsletter called New Bookmarks --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/bookurl.htm
Current and past editions of my newsletter called Tidbits --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/TidbitsDirectory.htm
Current and past editions of my newsletter called Fraud Updates --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudUpdates.htm
Bob Jensen's past presentations and lectures --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/resume.htm#Presentations
address is 190 Sunset Hill Road, Sugar Hill, New Hampshire
Our cottage was known as the Brayton Cottage in the early 1900s
Sunset Hill is a ridge overlooking with New Hampshire's White Mountains to the East
and Vermont's Green Mountains to the West
Bob Jensen's Threads --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/threads.htm
Bob Jensen's Home Page --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/