In the entrance to Trinity Chapel, the small meeting house just south of campus, there’s a leather-bound book, filled with the names of all of who have worshipped there. The pages are yellowed and the leather brittle with age. Flipping through the pages and reading the columns of signatures is like going back in time, the faces of students from years, and even decades, past floating up from the pages.
While Trinity Chapel is not owned or maintained by Holderness, it does play a significant part in the school’s history. Built in 1797, Trinity Chapel was the school’s first house of worship. In addition, the gentleman who built the chapel, Samuel Livermore, was also the generous donor on whose land Holderness School was built. Annual services are still held in Trinity Chapel; new students and faculty sign the guest ledger during one of the first chapel services of the year, and seniors and departing faculty gather for one last moment of reflection before Commencement in May.
This summer the chapel is receiving some much needed renovations. “The chapel is sitting on its original foundation,” explains Senior Associate Director of Major Gifts Pete Barnum, who is also a trustee of the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery Association
. “There’s a lot of moisture under the building’s framing and it’s important to take care of that before significant structural damage occurs.”
In fact, moisture has already had its way with at least one of the sills. Phase one of the renovation includes raising the building off its original foundation, replacing rotten beams, pouring a new foundation, creating proper drainage, and resetting the granite blocks. Next summer during phase two the siding of the building will be replaced as well. During phase three in two years the asphalt shingles on the roof will be replaced with cedar shakes.
“We want to get the chapel back to its original shape, so that it can be used more frequently,” says Peter. Trinity Church is on the National Register of Historic Places and is also the second oldest Episcopal church in New Hampshire. It is available for weddings and other church services.
Throughout the planning and renovations, the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery Association has consulted with Rodney Rowland at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth, NH and the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance; Stan Graton of 3G Construction was hired to complete the work.
Meanwhile the guest ledger remains inside the church, protected from the bumps and jostling that are happening during the renovations. But come fall, when students return, it will once again take its place in the entryway, ready to record the next generation of Holderness students, standing as a symbol of all who came before and all who will follow after, binding countless generations together.
Editor’s Note: All funding for this project is coming from private donations from the local community. If you would like to make a gift to the restoration fund, please contact Peter Barnum at (603)779-5221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Trinity Churchyard Cemetery Association is a 501 (c) (13) tax exempt organization.