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1875: Watch Hill Chapel Society in the Town of Westerly was organized on September 1,1875. By-Laws were adopted on September 4, 1875.
1876: Act of the General Assembly establishing the Society was passed February 8, 1876. George M. Nash deed for the Chapel lot (70 x 120 feet) was conveyed to the Society on July 20, 1876.
1877: The Chapel, built in the “English Gothic style” at a cost of $4,000, was dedicated on July 18, 1877. The initial design was perhaps suggested by James L. Howard of Hartford, later a President of the Chapel Society. The architect was actually George Keller of Hartford. Its initial dimensions were 36 x 60 feet, with a capacity estimated at 300-400 people.
1882: Additional land (a 10 foot right-of-way) to the west of the Chapel was conveyed by deed from Howard Collins and Helen R. Collins.
1887: The Chapel was enlarged by adding the transept to the southwest corner of the nave and rebuilding the chancel, thus creating an estimated capacity of 450. George Keller of Hartford was again the architect.
1902: A second enlargement included extending the transept eastward to create a full south aisle, extending the chancel 25 feet westward and establishing the current dimensions (roughly 90 x 110 feet) with an estimated capacity of 600-750. A second front door and porch were added. The organ and fixed pews were also installed. George Keller again served as architect.
1903: The deed from Edward S. Brewer was recorded, releasing his rights over the 10 foot parcel earlier conveyed by Collins grant.
1925: The organ was rebuilt and enlarged.   
1928: The Chapel exterior was remodeled in the Colonial Revival style, and the Gothic steeple was replaced with a cupola. 
1939: Special Service of Prayer and Thanksgiving was held to mourn the losses from the Hurricane of September 21, 1938. The Rev. Remsen B. Ogilby, president of Trinity College, Hartford, presided.
1942: In light of the Second World War, Watch Hill volunteers formed the Watch Hill Volunteer Defense Committee, which established support activities, including a Casualty Station, which was located in the Chapel Undercroft.
1945: On Tuesday, August 14, 1945, the end of the Second World War was marked by the defeat of Japan, and on Wednesday morning, a Special Service of Thanksgiving was offered at the Chapel.
1995: Entrance terrace and plantings were installed.
1999: Watch Hill Chapel Prayer Book was published.
​2008: A $1.5 million, 3-year Capital Campaign for the restoration and mission of the Chapel was completed, allowing a major restoration to be undertaken, an outreach component established, and the endowment replenished.
2019: Extensive renovations to the Undercroft included installing two new windows on the west wall and modernizing the entire kitchen and painting area, reconfiguring the restrooms into two ADA compliant restrooms and adding air-conditioning.
2020: Virtual services were added to summer offerings. The Chapel also offered a full season of in-person services following State of Rhode Island mandates for safety regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.

Historic Austin Organ Restoration

Trustees Beth Bean, Liz Sayre, Grant Simmons, and Organist Andrew Howell had an entertaining and informative visit to the Austin Organ Workshop in Hartford, Connecticut on Wednesday, April 3rd. While there, they had a full tour and explanation of every aspect of organ building and repair, and got to see various members of the Austin team in action. One of the brand new sets of pipes (an English Horn-like sounding rank called a Schalmei) was in the process of being voiced, so they got to play and hear that one live. They also saw the new Solo Trumpet pipes all wrapped up and ready to go, the cleaned and revoiced String pipes, and the brand new set of Mixture pipes that will add shimmer and sparkle to the sound of our instrument. The pedal board (keyboard played by the organist's feet) is in progress and the console looks great with its new wiring and beautifully cleaned and repaired keyboards. Everything is on track to be installed at the beginning of May so that our beloved Austin Organ will not only be ready, but better than ever in time for the first weddings of the year and the opening Sunday of the 2024 summer season on June 23rd! Hope to see you all there!

Cleaned and repaired keyboards
New solo trumpet pipes all wrapped and ready
String Celeste ready to come back
Repaired and updated console
Cleaned and revoiced string pipes
Starting to voice the new 2 foot flute pipes
Room full of huge pipes
New set of Schalmei pipes
Looking at the new console wiring
Pedals in progress
Looking at the 16 foot pipes
Rear view of new console wiring
Looking at the top of the console
New set of mixture pipes
Other case pieces
On the morning of November 7th, the console for our Austin organ was removed for renovations after nearly 100 years of service to the Chapel! The instrument will be off-line through the winter, but will be back with a brand new console (the console is where the organist sits to play the multiple keyboards and pedals!) and tonal improvements that will add new color and brightness to the sound of our beloved instrument.
The pictures below show the console being pulled apart to make it light enough to lift out of its usual spot and then rolled down the aisle and into a truck. The next stop for our console is the Austin Organ Co. workshop in Hartford, CT, where it will be fully refurbished and brought into excellent playing shape just in time for the start of wedding season in May of 2024!