Old Gilead Chapel
As we turn left at Johnsonville Road off of Highway 609, the 21st century fades away. At the intersection of Johnsonville Road and Neptune Avenue, the Gilead Chapel sits a distance off the road on the left, atop a small knoll.
Though the building dates from 1876, Moodus has been its home for only 40 years. In 1969, Raymond and Carole Schmitt purchased the structure. It was meticulously dissembled, with each piece labeled to ensure proper reconstruction. To the chagrin of the local population, the historic structure was uprooted from its foundation in Waterford, CT. Via flatbed trucks the chapel traversed the thirty-mile trek northwest to Johnsonville.
For 60 years the Gilead Chapel served as the interdenominational Sunday School for the youth of Waterford. The instructor, Henry P. Haven, was a firm beleiver in the virtues of Christian morality as a civilizing force of young people, to stave off temptations, vices and crime.
One of the iconic structures of Historic Johnsonville Village, the Gilead Chapel hosted many speical events and displays as a museum site.
Tours acquainted visitors with 19th century worship rituals.
A period pipe organ filled the space with its pervasive tones, and candle-lit vigils and carol singing formed the cornerstone of the Christmas tradition in Johnsonville, beginning in 1970. Reindeer and other figures on the deep lawn of the chapel formed the tableaux that would populate and animate the village during the holiday season.
Many couples were married in the Old Gilead Chapel, with receptions following in one of the many other structures in the village.
Built in the Carpenter Gothic style, the Gilead Chapel is a rare architectural artifact.
In the 1840s-70sThe Gothic and Picturesque aesthetics were in voge in the United States. Contrasted to the heavy, overly detailed and decorated style of construction that used expensive materials, the 'carpenter' offshoot was intended to construct buildings quickly and cheaply, while inserting Gothic designs and details that brought high class decorative style to the masses.
The steeply pitched roof with scroll work on the front gable of the chapel are classic Carpenter Gothic devices. The fine stained glass windows are set in lead, which was uncommon in this period and among these cheaper structures. A classic picturesque example of subliminity, the chapel evokes feeling of the Old World of Europe.
The rustic and humble feeling of the chapel combined with the fine woodwork and materials represent the interaction of taste, design, and industrial technology. The wood scroll, resembling the handcarved tradition, actually was the product of machines and mass production. The nostalgic feel of the chapel was belied by the present of 1876, which was increasingly more modern, efficient, and forward-looking.