Wealthy family men are known to go to great lengths to keep their wives comfortable, and Francis S. Kinney is no exception. In 1885 the tobacco magnate began to acquire 5,000 acres of land, built a country house there that grew to encompass 20,000 square feet, and named it Kinnelon – very impressive, but not unprecedented.
What sets Kinney apart in the history of devoted spouses is what he did in the spring of 1886. Because the nearest Catholic church was seven miles away, he built a chapel for his wife, Mary. , and their children on the estate – in the middle of Lake Kinnelon. In 1889, he went further and commissioned Louis Comfort Tiffany to model the structure after a medieval chapel from the time when Saint-Hubert, its namesake, lived. Hubert was a French nobleman and patron saint of hunters who was canonized in 743.
Kinney’s heiress son Morris left the property to his lifelong friend John Talbot, who developed the private and planned community of the Smoke Rise Club there. The population has grown too large to use the 25-seat chapel, and after decades of disuse and vandalism, it has fallen into serious disrepair.
But recent ongoing restoration efforts that culminated in the work of the nonprofit Kinnelon Heritage Conservation Society have helped restore it to its former glory.
The Editors-in-Chief of Wayne Magazine recently had the privilege of having a personal visit from Tom Kline, Chief Curator of the St-Hubert Chapel Conservation Committee, hosted with assistance from Lisa Masterson, owner of Kinnelon Real Estate.
Door to the past
Tiffany designed the entrance to the chapel, which was restored in 2003 with new wood and hundreds of remelted bronze pieces.
The bronze bas-relief dedication tablet designed by Swiss-born Tiffany artist Jacob Adolphus Holzer represents Saint-Hubert as imagined in ancient objects.
Preserve original art
Visitors enter the baptistery and are greeted by a plaster sculpture, “The Angel of the Resurrection”, by Antonio Tantardini. The statue was originally placed on the grave of Francis Kinney’s mother, Mary Cogswell Kinney, a friend of Mary Todd Lincoln who was one of five women present as President Abraham Lincoln died. Using hundreds of pieces of thick glass precisely shattered to better reflect light, Tiffany created the large Celtic cross window, which was removed for restoration in 1993 and reinstalled a year later.
Inside the chapel, a hammered brass scene of Saint-Hubert and his hunting dogs is visible above the fireplace. The shell-shaped font is surrounded by abalone. Cori Kline was among the curators who restored the altar to its original beauty.
The marble mosaic floor replicating the designs found in Roman ruins bears the Tiffany logo, which is embedded in the small circle in the center.
The chapel’s Tiffany altar features gold leaf and hundreds of antique glass cabochons (polished but not faceted stones) set in white plaster. The restoration process was thorough and used glass made in the same Kokomo, Indiana ovens that Tiffany used in the 1880s, as well as pieces of Tiffany Kline glass made in the 1980s that are no longer available in the greenish tint. original.
Angles and archangels in a relief
JA Holzer constructed this full plaster relief, which has been restored to this day to show Saint-Eustache, Archangel Michael and Saint-Hubert against a background of foliage that spills over to the ceiling.
A circular iron staircase housed behind the lattice doors of the sanctuary ascends about 20 feet to a platform. Above, three large bronze bells sound the hour. A hatch above the head leads into the Clock Room, which houses the E. Howard & Company tower clock, which is hand wound once a week and chimes year round.
For more information on visiting the Saint-Hubert chapel, visit kinnelonheritage.org.
Cindy Schweich Handler is editor-in-chief of Montclair and Wayne magazines, and editor for The Record and Northjersey.com, which frequently covers health issues. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @CindyHandler