By SANDI GOLDFARB

Swampscott’s historic cemetery is a peaceful place. Mature trees shade walkways that wind through the well-maintained grounds, while the sounds of birds mingle with the gentle hum of traffic. Grave sites are marked by small American flags waving in the breeze and by flowers and balloons that pay tribute to loved ones long gone.  

The newly-renovated Andrews Chapel is the centerpiece of the cemetery, which was established in 1852. Designed in the Norman Gothic style by Charles V. Burgess, the chapel was built in 1923 in memory of Swampscott selectman and assessor, Isaac H. Andrews, at the bequest of his widow, Ellen T. Andrews.

A view from outside the Swampscott Cemetery Chapel.

Through the years the once proud sanctuary fell into disrepair. But with support from the town, a small but mighty committee, private donors and the generosity of local businesses, artisans and tradesmen, the chapel has been transformed.

In 2009, the town earmarked $180,000 to repair the building’s slate roof and limestone exterior. Fundraising and the first phase of construction began that same year. A group of dedicated volunteers, led by Deb Bogardus, raised more than $150,000 through gifts large and small to renovate the interior of the nondenominational chapel.   

Over an eight-year period, every surface of the chapel was painstakingly restored. Ten stained glass windows, in soft shades of blue, green and gold, were repaired or replaced and walls, floors, the vaulted ceiling and chair rails were sanded and refinished. Original lighting fixtures were refurbished and new lighting installed.  The chapel’s plaster walls were painted and stenciled and 16 of the original 20 wooden pews were refinished by Boy Scout Troop 53 under the guidance of Michael Norcott. Wood from the four pews that could not be salvaged was used to build two tables that flank the entry.

Tile work in the chapel’s entry was either repaired or replaced, wiring and heating systems were updated, a wheelchair ramp added and the landscaping surrounding the chapel was graded to improve drainage. With work completed, the chapel was rededicated in May. “I get a lot of credit,” said Bogardus. “But honestly, this was a real team effort.”

Twenty of the cemetery’s 74 acres— the oldest section of the property, which includes the chapel— are  listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photos: Owen O’Rourke

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