Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel Building at Christ Church in Pelham Manor

The oldest church building in the Town of Pelham is the picturesque structure built of hand-hewn granite that serves The Parish of Christ The Redeemer. Known as Christ Church, the gothic-inspired building with lancet windows and lovely doorways coined in red brick looks like a country parish that might be found in the ancient English countryside.

In July 1884, one of the most beloved members of the Parish died: Nanette Bolton. She was a daughter of the founder of the church and had worked actively for the parish for forty years. She also founded and served as head mistress of the famed Priory School for Girls located in the Bolton Priory, her family’s home next to Christ Church.

Former pupils of the Priory School and members of the parish decided to express their love with a memorial building to expand the facilities of the little parish. Thus, in 1885 and 1886, the parish raised funds and built the Nanette Bolton Memorial Building immediately adjacent to Christ Church. See Haight, J. McVickar, Historical Sketch of Christ Church Pelham 1843-1919, p. 14 (Privately Printed Pamphlet 1919; hereinafter “Haight”) (unnumbered pages).

On April 28, 1887, Episcopal Bishop Henry Potter consecrated the Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel. An article appeared in the next day’s issue of The New York Times. It provided a wealth of information about the background and history of the little structure. It stated:


The Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel at Pelham, erected in memory of Miss Bolton, for many years Principal of Pelham Priory and well known as an earnest Christian worker and educator, was consecrated yesterday by Bishop Potter. The memorial was built largely from funds contributed by members of Christ Church, to which it will be an adjunct, being used for the Sunday school and for Lenten services. The chapel is a gem of architecture, built in the early English style entirely of stone. It is 48 1/2 feet long by 32 feet broad. Its total cost was $4,125, the land being furnished by Mrs. A. L. Stevens, present owner of the Priory, and the plans being the gift of the architect, F. [Charles] Merry, of New-York. There is a memorial window in the north side, the gift of Mr. Thomas Denton. An inscription on the south side of the chapel, 'Lo, I am with you alway,' was given by the children of the Sunday school.

The consecration service was the Episcopal ritual for the occasion of opening a new place of worship and was conducted by Bishop Potter, assisted by the Rev. Mr. Coffey, of East Chester, a friend of Miss Bolton; the Rev. Mr. Canedy of New-Rochelle, the Rev. Mr. Winsor, of City Island, the Rev. Dr. Mallory, and the Rev. Charles Higbee, Rector of Christ Church. Before the service of consecration Bishop Potter confirmed 20 persons in the church.

Bishop Potter in his address referred to what he regarded as one of the most promising signs of the age, the apparently wide-spread tendency to memorialize the dead, not as of old with laudatory and possibly affected sculptures, but with beautiful buildings, or portions of them. He spoke also of Nanette Bolton as one who had done much in her education of women to advance the sex to its rightful position. 'I do not know,' he said, 'that anything in the signs of the times has more encouraged me that the fact that the other day before that vast concourse of people who had assembled to witness the centennial celebration of Columbia College, a woman was called to accept the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.' Bishop Potter referred to Miss Catharine L. Wolfe as one of the few who remembered their stewardship over riches, and as one whose character had been largely formed by Nanette Bolton, whose pupil she had been. Many well known people from New-York attended the services. Among them were Mrs. Lanier, Mrs. Jackson D. Steward, Miss Worts, Mrs. Bogert, Miss Auchincloss, Mr. Robert Edgar, Mrs. John Emmet, Miss Schmidt, Mr. and Mrs. De Luze, Miss De Luze, the Misses Schuyler, Mrs. Henry Clark, Mr. Meredith Howland, and Mr. John Munro."

Source: An Architectural Gem – The Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel Consecrated, N.Y. Times, Apr. 29, 1887, p. 8.

The completion of the Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel was a significant enough event to warrant one of the earliest extant photographs taken in Pelham (click here to see the photograph). It shows more than sixty people standing in front of the new building in two groups on each side of a memorial stone embedded beneath the windows. The stone is inscribed “Nanette Bolton Memorial”.

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