Pittsburgh, Pa. – Sept., 22, 2017 – The historic Hickman Chapel, which has been a fixture on the Laurel Highlands landscape in Fayette County for more than 100 years, was donated yesterday to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for restoration, preservation and eventual public use in keeping with its original purpose.
Built in 1901, Hickman Chapel had long been a meeting place for church services, weddings, gatherings and funerals for many community residents in and around Stewart Township. The chapel is a beautiful and modest one-story clapboard-covered sanctuary building. The last worship service in the chapel took place in the 1980s. Decades of declining chapel use and maintenance eventually took their toll on the now vacant building.
Located along Route 381/National Scenic Byway in Mill Run, Hickman Chapel is approximately one mile south of the entrance to Fallingwater and is adjacent to the Conservancy’s Bear Run Nature Reserve that surrounds Fallingwater.
The church’s remaining members wanted to preserve the chapel. Over the past year, they worked closely with Conservancy staff to donate Hickman Chapel and its associated cemetery to the permanent care of the Conservancy.
Lynda Waggoner, the director of Fallingwater and a vice president of the Conservancy, describes Hickman Chapel as an important part of the pastoral and agrarian heritage of Fayette County and the region.
“Buildings of this type were once common features of rural landscapes, but today they are becoming increasingly rare,” said Waggoner. “The Hickman Chapel is part of an important and rich heritage of people, places and agriculture in the Laurel Highlands. I’m pleased that the community sees the importance of saving these local treasures and honored that the members asked us to help preserve it.”
Admired by travelers to the Laurel Highlands, who are often seen stopping their vehicles to photograph it, Hickman Chapel has been identified as a preservation priority for the Laurel Highlands for decades. The property falls within an important corridor for protection identified in the recent Laurel Highlands Scenic Viewshed Analysis and Protection Plan. Furthermore, protecting the chapel supports priorities identified by the public through the Fayette County Comprehensive Plan and Fayette County Comprehensive Parks, Recreation, Open Space, Greenways and Trail Plan for scenic corridors and recreational/cultural resource conservation areas.
A $10,484 Fayette County Tourism Program grant administered by the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau will support the Conservancy’s work to repair and preserve the chapel. Restoration of the chapel is scheduled to start this fall. The improvements include a new roof, restoration of the wood siding, exterior painting and window conservation. The chapel and cemetery will be preserved, maintained and managed as part of the Bear Run Nature Reserve, by Conservancy staff at Fallingwater.
“We’re grateful to the Fayette County Tourism Grant Program and the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau for awarding this grant that will allow us to significantly improve the appearance, safety and long-term survival of this significant building,” said Waggoner. “Our land protection staff and others worked closely with the members and will uphold and reflect their wishes and ideals so that the building endures for future generations.”
To help interpret the history of Hickman Chapel, the Conservancy is seeking memorabilia, photographs and artifacts related to the chapel and cemetery. If community members are interested in donating items, please contact Fallingwater Registrar Rebecca Hagen at 724-329-7822.