A Brief History of the Spray Beach Chapel
During the summer of 1894, when there were only twelve cottages in all of Spray Beach, Mrs. Hettie L. Ringgold inspired the organization of the Chapel. At that time, the Spray Beach Hotel (razed in 1969) was the center of activities, and church services were held there in the music room on Sunday evenings. In April 1895, the decision was made to build a chapel. William Butler of Beach Haven, a builder responsible for the construction of most of the houses in Beach Haven and Spray Beach in that period, agreed to erect the chapel at a cost of $900.00! Records show that the pulpit and platform were the gift of the builder, and that William S. Ringgold donated the ground. The organ was given by Miss Elizabeth K. Robison, was later electrified by Paul Twelves: it was completely restored in 1995. Minutes of July 1895 mention the purchase of “100 chairs from Wanamaker’s at a cost of $33.75”. These chairs are still being used today, as in the pulpit furniture from that era which had been donated by three of the cottage owners.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Ringgold died on May 31, 1895, without seeing her dream of the Chapel become a reality. In order that her efforts might always be remembered, the center stained glass window was presented by the Bible Class of the Mutchmore Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. They also gave the smaller stained glass windows in memory of her son and daughter. On August 4 1895, the Chapel was dedicated by the Rev. S.A. Mutchmore, of Philadelphia. Donations that day amounted to $540.00! Records show that the Capel remained closed in 1908 because “there was no one to conduct services.” It remained closed until August 15, 1909, when a “Rev. Smedley, a local Methodist preacher, kindly preached for us.” About 1910, it became a union chapel, to be governed by a board of trustees. The Chapel is the second oldest house of worship on Long Beach Island, and the oldest church building on the island to be in continuous use.
The original bell proved to be too heavy for the steeple. Its ringing cracked the plaster walls so severely that they had to be paneled. When that bell was removed. It was hung at the southwest corner of Twenty-third and Beach Avenue and was used to summon the fire company from Beach Haven when needed. The second bell became badly corroded over the years, and was replaced by a ship’s bell in 1950. Mr. Charles Dore donated this third bell, and it is still in use today. Meanwhile, the original bell was returned to the Chapel by Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Roy. (It had previously been used as a planter!) Mr. Harrison Hall fabricated a suitable mounting, and the old bell has a place of honor at last.
In 1951, the forty-foot lot on the north side of the Chapel was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Augustus L. Keil, and in the sixties, the corner lots were acquired by fund-raising.
In 1981, a “Save the Chapel” fund-raising campaign for repairs to the structure was launched with a goal of $10,000.00 Then, in 1985, the exterior of the building was completely re-sided through the efforts of Mr. Craig Fowler. This should preserve the Chapel for many future years.
Throughout its history, many gifts have been presented to the Chapel. These include American and Christian flags, a Memorial Book, and guest registers, fiven at various times by the friends of the church.
The Bible on the pulpit was presented in honor of the Rev. J. Wesley Twelves who conducted evening services from 1927 to 1957.
On June 9, 1982, a stained glass window, presented in memory of Robert D. Lintz by his family and friends, was installed over the door of the Chapel. This window was designed by Marguerite Gaudin, and painted by Ann Willet Atelier of Springhouse, PA.
In 1994 a new bulletin board, used to announce services and activities to the community, was given in memory of Mr. William Wivel, a past president of the Chapel Board of Trustees.
In 1997, new hymnals were donated by John Englishmen in loving memory of his wife Margaret, who was a faithful pianist at the Chapel for over twenty years.