Big Moose Community Chapel celebrates 88 years

Posted 7/20/19

OLD FORGE —“The realization of dreams, the fruition of toil, the fulfillment of aspirations, the answer to prayer. All these and more was the dedication of the Big Moose Chapel, Sunday, Aug. 2, …

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Big Moose Community Chapel celebrates 88 years

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OLD FORGE —“The realization of dreams, the fruition of toil, the fulfillment of aspirations, the answer to prayer. All these and more was the dedication of the Big Moose Chapel, Sunday, Aug. 2, 1931.”

This description led the coverage in the Adirondack Arrow of Aug. 8, 1931, a week after a fire severely damaged the newly built Big Moose Community Chapel. For those not familiar with the chapel history, from the 1890s to the late 1920s, seasonal and year-round Big Moose residents relied on ministers from Inlet and Old Forge to conduct worship services.

But in 1927 a committee was formed to discuss construction of a church, a lot on Big Moose Lake was bought in 1928, and local mason and expert builder Earl W. Covey was tasked with putting up a stone church 70-feet by 32-feet, plus a Sunday School room 30’-feet by 20-feet.

Chapel construction ended in July 1930 with the first service set for July 20. A tragic fire broke out the night prior to the first service. Fund-raising started again as Earl Covey and his crew cleaned up the debris and began to rebuild the chapel. The chapel was finished and opened in June 1931 and was dedicated Aug. 2, 1931.

The Adirondack Arrow described the building this way: “Any description of the Big Moose Chapel is necessarily inadequate to impart an idea of its unique attractiveness, because it cannot convey the alluring setting. So thoroughly does the Chapel harmonize with the surroundings so perfectly in accord is it with the lake and the woods and the hills by which it is encompassed, that it must be visualized in order to be fully appreciated.”

A massive fireplace of pink sandstone, another of Coveys’s masterpieces, is on the opposite end of the sanctuary from the pulpit and is eight feet across and has an opening of four feet. In the tower a 500-pound bell was installed in memory of a former resident and has this inscription: “In loving memory of Kate McCollum Paige.” The article ends with a tribute to Earl W. Covey, designer and builder, who was described as having the robust spirit of the woodsmen coupled with self-sacrifice and saintliness. Covey was also an elder of the church for many years. 

Today the Big Moose Community Chapel continues as an independent chapel unaffiliated with any denomination, but adheres to the Christian faith, is open to all people of all faiths, and is committed to service of others. Services are held from Father’s Day through the end September each year with a candlelight Christmas service in December. The chapel hosts weddings, baptisms, memorial services and maintains a columbarium built by Adirondack stonemasons in a Memorial Woods across the road from the chapel building.

The Rev. Dr. Richard McCaughey, of Canandaigua, has been the summer minister for 21 years. Sara Burrows currently heads the 21-member Board of Trustees, and the chapel donates one-half of the plate collections to local charities and not-for-profits.

In addition to two Sunday services, the Big Moose Community Chapel is open during the week for Tuesday afternoon tours 2-4 p.m., on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. for a lecture series coordinated by the Town of Webb Historical Association, and for special musical evenings throughout the summer season. All are invited to visit and worship at Big Moose Community Chapel.

The chapel is located five miles west of Eagle Bay at 1544 Big Moose Road.

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