There’s No Chapel In The World Like This One In Georgia
Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church in Habersham County is a true marvel to look at, but it’s an even bigger marvel once you understand the history behind it.
The church was established in 1838 as the sixth Episcopal parish established in the state as well as the second oldest Episcopal Church building. But this type of building must have gone through huge renovations after nearly two centuries worth of services, right?
Wrong. The church remains nearly unchanged to this day. Built by Jarvis Van Buren, a relative of U.S. President Van Buren, the church features beautifully crafted Greek Revival architecture. Worth noting are some of the historic features within the actual chapel itself, which include multipaned windows that still retain many of the original hand blown glass, straight-backed box pews, and a “double-decked” pulpit.
Then there is one of the church’s oldest and most prized treasures—the original pipe organ, which is the oldest working church instrument in Georgia. The organ was built specifically for the church by Henry Erben of New York City in 1848, and still retains its baroque tone and 19th-century pitch. In 1988, the organ was completely restored and still to this day, is played every Sunday.
This history behind this beautiful chapel is really something. First, the chapel itself almost wasn’t built due to issues with construction. Rumors swirled that the rivers were so low that year the saw mill, which was water-powered, could not function. But after the construction finally came to fruition, the frame structure was built, which still survives essentially unaltered today, along with the tall pillars and portico.
The reason the church was built in the first place was for the “summer folk” who decided to travel to Clarkesville and take up residency. According to the website Historical Rural Churches of Georgia, Clarkesville became a village of hotels and boarding houses for prosperous coastal and lowland families, who began coming to the mountains during the summer to escape yellow fever and other diseases which ran rampant in low country communities like Savannah and Charleston. These summer families decided that if they were to stay long term, then building a church was an absolute must.
Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. It is filled to the brim with wonderful history, and deserves recognition for retaining the beauty throughout the years.