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Rowe Camp chapel fully renovated

101-year-old building serves UU camp founded in 1924.
By Jane Greer
Fall 2008 8.18.08

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Smith Memorial Chapel

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The historic Preserved Smith Memorial Chapel in Rowe, Massachusetts. (Arulamma) Click "view additional images" to see interior photograph (Granger Macy).

For generations of campers at the Unitarian Universalist Rowe Camp & Conference Center in Rowe, Massachusetts, evening services at the historic Preserved Smith Memorial Chapel marked the close of every day. And now, generations of future campers will be able to enjoy the same experience thanks to renovations made to the chapel building over the past two years. Updates include a new roof, a new electrical system, new cedar siding, repointed and refurbished stonework, and plaster repairs.

The chapel, located in the center of town, is named after the Rev. Preserved Smith, the town’s first minister, who converted to Unitarianism in 1821. The building was completed for Rowe’s Unitarian congregation in 1907. Much of the stone and wood used for the 65 x 25-foot structure was acquired locally.

The Unitarian Rowe Camp was founded in 1924 and began using the chapel in the summer. At the same time, the chapel’s year-round congregation had begun to dwindle. In 1932, the congregation deeded the chapel to the camp and the camp continued to hold weekly services for the remaining congregation for the next fourteen years. In 1946 the congregation formally disbanded, although the camp continued.

Many campers have fond memories of the chapel. “The Rowe chapel has been my sacred space since I first entered it,” wrote the Rev. Kerry Mueller, co-minister of the UU Fellowship of Fayetteville, Arkansas, about her experience as a young camper. “My call to ministry began here. Thirty-five years later, I still carry the chapel around with me.”

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