Press Release
Contact: Helen Smith 614.551.7977

The Portageville Chapel Wins Historic Restoration Grant
168-year-old rural church becomes country's first retreat for organists

Portageville, NY, June 7, 2009. The Portageville Chapel, a non-profit retreat for organists, today announced that it has been awarded a grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Restoration. The award is a matching grant of $25,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to assist The Portageville Chapel in restoring an historic building in Wyoming County. The building, built in 1841 as a Universalist Church, is in the process of being completely restored and will serve as a private rehearsal facility for professional organists. The EPF grant will provide funds to rebuild the front steps, restore water and septic to the building and protect the historic windows with custom storm windows.

In 2008, the building was listed on both the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. In 2007, when it was acquired by The Portageville Chapel, it required major repairs. David Lewis, a preservation carpenter from Holden, Massachusetts, removed the building's nine Gothic windows, repaired the frames, and refitted them with 19th century glass. The original pews, complete with latched doors, had been taken apart and stacked under the choir loft. Hundreds of unique parts were reassembled and the pews were restored to their original beauty.

Prior to the EPF award, the project was entirely funded through private donations. Additional donations and grants are being sought to retire the building restoration debt and replicate the original spire, which was destroyed in a windstorm in 1951.

The Portageville Chapel will open its doors to the public for three concerts this summer. The concerts will include organ, piano and vocal performances of the highest caliber and will be offered as a service to the community. “The concert series gives the community a chance to experience the transformation of this historic treasure first hand,” said Barbara Hunt, secretary of the non-profit organization.

The building was chosen as the first American retreat for organists because of its outstanding acoustics, and because of its proximity to Letchworth State Park. Located at the intersection of routes 19A and 436, it is only ¼ mile from the south entrance to the park. Said Timothy Smith, executive director of the Chapel, “Few organists can afford their own instrument, so when they practice, it is usually in a public space where there are constant distractions. Our goal is to create an extraordinary experience where organists can escape for a week at a time to practice new music in an inspirational setting.”

For more information, visit