Ames Chapel ~ Hingham Cemetery
Ames Chapel, 1886
12 South Street
The chapel in the Hingham Cemetery is a great example of how each generation shapes a property to fulfill its needs. The original purpose of the chapel was to accommodate out of town families, of which there were many, with a place for burial services. This need all but disappeared in the mid-20th century. Today the chapel has been reborn as a charming community center for wedding rehearsal dinners, concerts, art shows, and yes, maybe a few funerals.
In 1886 J. Sumner Fowler, a Boston architect and Hingham resident, designed the Queen Anne style chapel. Preston Ames, a shipping broker in Boston, gave a large stained glass window in memory of his wife, Ann Fessenden Barnes of Hingham, who died in 1876. Much of the money for the chapel came from the cemetery endowment, Ann’s husband, and family friends.
With disuse, the chapel fell into decline. At one time there were considerations to raze or burn the chapel, but the building became a storage shed for the cemetery. Rusted lawn mowers and tools covering the floor destroyed much of its original beauty.
In 2011 the cemetery board began to restore the building as a fully accessible venue for the community. The Board received grants from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund and from the local Community Preservation Commission.
When the restoration was completed in 2015, Anne Kimball and Sue Bush, board members, filled the parlor room with Aesthetic Era furniture including an ornate chair purchased at a yard sale. The stained glass mural is the highlight of the function room. Restored pews surround the room and offer seating. The Cemetery Board and the restoration contractor, Wilcox Corp., were given a Bradford Sprout Preservation Award in 2015 for their revitalization of the Ames Chapel.
Among J.S. Fowler’s other designs are the Whiting Memorial Chapel at the High Street Cemetery, which is also on the house tour this year.