If you enjoy high-quality concerts of good music, Cold Spring is a great place to keep in mind. The Chapel Restoration, for example, presents a series of performances each year, and yesterday I attended the second concert in their Music Series 2014. It was given by the choir of St. Philip’s Church from nearby Garrison, and the program was sheer heaven for those who, like myself, enjoy the great tradition of sacred choral music. Directed by
their leader Durward Entrekin, the choir offered an amazing range of pieces from sixteenth-century motets by Palestrina and others to contemporary works by Morten Lauridsen and Pete Seeger. (Pete Seeger? Yes – a moving setting of his “To My Old Brown Earth,” definitely a not-a-dry-eye-left-in-my head sort of piece. And what could be more appropriate than performing Pete Seeger at a venue near his Hudson Valley home?) In between, we had Fauré’s always stunning Cantique de Jean Racine and the Kyrie from Haydn’s Nelson Mass with the excellent soprano soloist Julie Heckert.
These concerts take place in the historic chapel overlooking the Hudson that began life as the Chapel of Our Lady to serve the workers in the West Point Iron Foundry just south of Cold Spring. Many of these workers were Irish, and this chapel was built in the 1830s to serve their religious needs, probably the first Catholic Church in New York north of the city.
Ironically it was that same West Point Iron Foundry, when it went on to become a major producer of Civil War armaments (the famous Parrott gun was made here), that began causing damage to the chapel due to the frequent test firing. A series of further problems was set in motion that led to the chapel being abandoned in 1906. It was then ravaged by fire in 1927. This once impressive building was a ruin until 1971, when a small group of people, including actress Helen Hayes, banded together, bought it from the Archdiocese of New York, and undertook to restore it.
Today the chapel is used for cultural events and can be booked for weddings as well. If you’re in the Cold Spring area, it’s definitely worth taking a look and, on weekends, couldn’t be easier to get to – it’s just opposite Cold Spring’s Amtrak Station, where parking is free on weekends. Right next to the chapel is the Foundry Dock Park with commanding views of Constitution Marsh and, on the opposite side of the river, the U.S. Military Academy.
For more information on the chapel, visit the Chapel Restoration’s website.
For more photos and history of Cold Spring and many other sites in the beautiful Hudson Valley and Catskills, check out our book, Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour. Contact me to learn how to get a signed copy.