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

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. 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. “The wood was all rotted and destroyed, including the framing, so that was fixed,” he said.

‘We Are Excited’: Long-Neglected Ponus Ridge Chapel To Be Restored

After years of disuse that dragged on due to bitter legal disputes, a neglected and deteriorating former chapel and community center on Ponus Ridge now is poised to be restored in a way that historic preservationists in New Canaan long have supported. The historic Ponus Ridge Chapel stands to be transferred from a dormant association to a neighboring property owner, clearing the way for its protection and eventual conversion into a privately owned structure that will be opened periodically to the wider community. “We are really happy about it,” said Brendan Hayes, next-door neighbor and soon-to-be owner of the Chapel property along with his wife, Ainsley, told NewCanaanite.com. “Restoring historic properties is one of the things we feel strongly about, so we are excited to be able to start this project—it is long overdue.” Once a community hub that functioned as gathering place for important community events—church services, Sunday School, group dinners, fairs, christenings, weddings, a funeral, dancing and art classes, holiday parties and meetings of the Ladies’ Aid Society, Farm Bureau and Fish and Game League—the Chapel hasn’t been used in some 50 years, according to town records. 

Since 1959, the ca.