Historic Preservation: New Canaan Family’s ‘Ponus Ridge Chapel’ Project Underway


Preservation work is underway at Ponus Ridge Chapel in New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan

A closely followed historic preservation project is underway on Ponus Ridge. 

The new owners of the “Ponus Ridge Chapel,” a 1911-built structure located a few hundred feet north of Davenport Ridge Road, have had the interior of the long-neglected building cleaned and its main floor replaced.

Cover of ‘The Ponus Ridge Chapel Memorial Program’—the Nov. 4, 1951 event marking its 40th anniversary.

Once a community hub that functioned as gathering place for important events—church services, Sunday School, group dinners, fairs, christenings, weddings, holiday parties, meetings and the very first Walter Schalk dance classes—the Chapel hasn’t been used in some 50 years, according to town records.

In December, after clearing legal hurdles that had dragged on for years, the Chapel’s next-door neighbors Brendan and Ainsley Hayes—owners of their own antique house—finally acquired the property and immediately set about a restoration project that local preservationists long have supported.

After taking ownership of the property, they found a “ton of rot inside” the Chapel, Brendan Hayes told NewCanaanite.com when asked for an update.

Ponus Ridge Chapel—July 23, 2014. Credit: Michael Dinan

“The wood was all rotted and destroyed, including the framing, so that was fixed,” he said. “And since then we’ve had a bunch of work done on the windows, so that if you drive by, many windows have been restored, and that is still in process.”

The Hayeses also are designing a new roof structure that will look exactly like the old one that failed as the Chapel sat unprotected in the elements. 

The roof project could be completed by summer’s end, and the Chapel will also receive new doors made to replicate the existing ones, with a new glass door to be installed on the back of the building. 

Passersby who have noted work trucks outside the Chapel also are seeing concrete steps in the front of the building that are not original. A smaller wooden staircase that is closer to what had been there is to be installed at some point, Brendan Hayes said.

Ponus Ridge Chapel—July 23, 2014. Credit: Michael Dinan

Once the structure is fully stabilized, it will receive electrical and plumbing services—likely this fall—and will be used by the family as an accessory structure, he said.

Local organizations such as the New Canaan Historical Society and New Canaan Preservation Alliance long have voiced support for the Hayeses’ plan.

According to the 1951 “Landmarks of New Canaan” book from the Historical Society, the chapel is what ultimately came out of a movement that started in 1902 to “maintain the undenominational Christian worship of God, at or near Ponus Street.”

Weekly prayer meetings and Sunday School classes had been held in a meeting room on Davenport Ridge Road (in a building that also housed a butcher shop), according to a “Landmarks” article, by Emma Thurton.

“The members soon realized that a more adequate building was needed and decided to try and secure property and erect a chapel,” Thurton writes. Two neighbors—Levi S. Weed and Charles E. Hubbell—each gave a piece of property to the cause, and the chapel was dedicated on Sept. 10, 1911 “before an assembly of some 200 people.”

8 thoughts on “Historic Preservation: New Canaan Family’s ‘Ponus Ridge Chapel’ Project Underway

  1. Thank you so much for doing this renovation. The Ponus Ridge Chapel holds so many wonderful childhood memories for me. Hope to see some interior photos in the near future. Although I now live in Virginia I enjoy my daily visit via The New Canaanite.

  2. Many thanks to the family that is doing this great work to the benefit of the town and all of us. This is a real and devoted historical preservation!
    Best wishes, Laszlo

  3. This is great that the owners are preserving NC history. As a child I passed by daily on the way to school and saw it go into disrepair for 9 years. Even as a simple building, it is beautiful with its fieldstone. I hope, when done, the public will be able to tour. Just to get a glimps and satisfy a 9 year curiosity for a kid. Thank you for loving history, and old structures.

  4. At last, a historic preservation story with a happy ending. Many thanks to Brendan and Ainsley Hayes for their dedication and perseverance in saving a piece of history – a gift to New Canaan, and to all who pass by every day.

  5. I think it would have been nice to have someone do a restoration to the brick building at Mead Park. Thank you to these people preserving history.

  6. I remember singing there with a small NCHS choral group in 1965 or 1966. I am so glad to hear this is going to be restored and cared for.

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