In rural Berwick, Maine, a neo-Gothic-style chapel, built in 1939, stands within the confines of Evergreen Cemetery. Named Evergreen Chapel, it was built to host funeral services, but its lack of utilities made it unusable. Lassel Architects PA, South Berwick, Maine, was hired to make the building functional, including adding ADA accessibility, providing lighting and space conditioning, as well as including life-safety features.
The design team sought to maintain the chapel’s charming character, including its concrete composition covered with stone veneer, stained-glass windows and slate shingle roofing. “The design intent was to pay respect to the historical character of the chapel while leaving some trace of the time in which our renovation took place,” explains Michal Kaleta, CPHC, with Lassel Architects. “The new installations and fixtures selected respect the historic building without falsifying the history of the renovation.”
For example, the design team ensured the new ADA-compliant ramp’s granite veneer matches the existing, weathered stone elevation. While the ramp was being constructed, the stairs and landing to which it connected had to be rebuilt. All exterior veneer, granite steps and granite wall caps were reused. Millennium Granite North Berwick likely provided the chapel’s original stone and also provided matching new veneer and new granite caps for the ramp.
While holding design meetings within the nave, the team realized the acoustics were poor. “The echo was quite significant,” Kaleta recalls. “We could barely hear each other when there were more than eight people in the room.” To ensure this would not be a problem during services (the chapel holds 50 people), 2-inch-thick acoustic panels were installed on the cathedral ceilings; fabric on the panels matches the nave’s paint.
The unused basement with its 8-foot ceiling height accommodates the HVAC equipment and its runs. The chapel’s previously unused chimney hosts the system’s exhaust.
Most visually notable of the upgrades is the lighting. Lassel Architects’ team, along with lighting consultant Apex Lighting Solutions, Freeport, Maine, relied on experience illuminating the exteriors of historic buildings in central Europe when devising the simple lighting plan. “We sought to underline the Gothic features of the building,” Kaleta says. “We used LED technology to maximize the lifetime of the fixture/bulb and minimize the energy consumption.”
There are no light poles and no houses in the area, but today when you drive down Cemetery Road after dark, Evergreen Chapel stands as a beacon in the dark. “Driving up the hill through that darkness, all of a sudden you’ll see Evergreen Chapel flooded in a concert of lighting showing the building’s beauty,” Kaleta remarks.
PHOTOS: Lassel Architects PA