The Union Chapel in the Grove was founded in 1872. The present building, which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, was erected in 1875-76.
Despite periodic renovations, the frame structure remains virtually unaltered. Four memorial windows were installed at the turn of the century. They include the fine altar window with its Tiffany glass lilies. The two “marine mosaics” flanking the chancel reward particular scrutiny. These unusual seashell compositions – not leaded glass! – are the work of a local artist, Walter Cole Brigham, who derived his inspiration and materials from the Island’s beaches.
More recent repairs and improvements are recorded in a Book of Remembrance at the front of the Chapel. Recently, when the shingles on the East wall were replaced, the date 1901 was found scrawled on the original clapboard siding. Probably the portico over the main door was added at the same time.
The Chapel owes its existence to the establishment of a summer resort community and camp meeting which was sponsored by Brooklyn Methodists. Summering clergymen of various denominations took turns conducting services until 1906, when the appointment of resident ministers commenced. In 1975, the earlier pattern was resumed and continues today with many well-known and interesting clergy conducting the 13 summer Sunday services.
In the 1970’s, ownership of the property and responsibility for its maintenance was transferred to the Chapel’s Board of Trustees. A wider circle of Friends of the Chapel and a modest endowment fund provide the requisite financial support. Tax deductible contributions to help maintain the Union Chapel are appreciated, and may be sent to P.O. Box 326, Shelter Island Heights, New York 11965.
UNION CHAPEL DATES
Early 1800’s Frederick Chase purchased property on the Northeast Corner of Shelter Island and called it Prospect .
1871 - 24 Brooklyn clergymen and laymen, incorporated as the Shelter Island Grove and Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church, purchased the Chase property .
1872 - Prospect Hotel was built and services commenced outside in the grove up the hill.
1875 - Chapel, then called Prospect Chapel, was completed.
1880 - Methodist camp meetings were moved to Jamesport.
1886 - Chapel renamed Shelter Island Heights Chapel, Shelter Island Yacht Club was formed.
1892 - Annex built for the hotel.
1906 - Chapel had its first resident minister. Chapel renamed Union Chapel and first Chapel Committee formed to shore up finances.
1907 - Prospect House facilities expanded, including Beach Club.
1910’s - Major influx of Brooklynites bought property, particularly on Divinity Hill.
1920 - Hotel renamed Poggaticut after extensive renovations.
1924 - Hotel renamed New Prospect after reopening after fire. Chapel functioned as lecture and concert hall for hotel in addition to holding Sunday services.
1942 - New Prospect Hotel burned down. Shelter Island Heights Association elected not to rebuild.
1945 - Committee of 12 formed to collect funds needed for Chapel repairs.
1946 - 9 Person Chapel Committee formed to guide affairs of Chapel.
1971 - Chapel was incorporated as a non-for-profit entity under IRS code 501(c3).
1972 - Chapel celebrated 100th anniversary.
1975 - Dr. Boblin, last of the resident ministers, retired. Stewart Herman became Chairman. Chapel commenced colligate preaching schedule featuring visiting clergy.
1976 - Union Chapel became National Historic Landmark.
1977 - Insurance policy on Chapel, still owned by Shelter Island Heights Association, was allowed to lapse.
1978 - Deed of Chapel and adjacent land was passed from the Association to the Chapel Corporation. First Constitution and By-laws of Union Chapel in the Grove were adopted.