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Restoration activities at Decker's Chapel

October 23, 2010

Decker's Chapel, the smallest church in the U.S., is undergoing renovations. Photo by Becky Polaski.

Decker's Chapel, believed to be one of the smallest churches in the world, is getting spruced up by members of the Elk County Historical Society (ECHS).
The chapel dates back to 1856, when it was built by Michael Decker Sr., a St. Marys pioneer.
The ECHS, which was organized in 1964, obtained Decker's Chapel on April 20, 1990 from Decker's descendants, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Schneider. In 1998, ECHS's application to put the chapel on the National Register of Historic Places was approved.
“If you take a look at the guestbook, you'll see that people come from all over,” said Mary Kalinowski, executive director of the historical society. "We get tons of visitors, so we figured it was time to spruce it up.”
She said once the group started the project, renovations became more extensive than originally planned.
“Originally we were just going to go out there and just paint it back to its original white color,” Kalinowski said. “Once they got out there and started doing the work, they realized that there was more to be done."
She said large bushes and trees leaning against the building were causing damage. The chapel's sign also needed a makeover.
“The sign was very faded and you couldn't really see the majority of it. So we decided to go ahead and redo the sign. We took it down and painted it and put new letters on it,” Kalinowski said.
The ECHS is also working on cleaning up the property around the chapel to make the structure more visible from the road. According to Kalinowski, the renovation of the chapel is a work in progress.
“There's still more that needs to be done on the outside,” Kalinowski said. “And the inside really needs painted. The floors are very worn and need to be buffed and cleaned very well."
She added that Decker's Chapel stands as a monument to God and the faithful spirit of Elk County's early settlers. Today, it is available for many types of services, including weddings or vow renewals.
“We actually had somebody use it as a baptism for their child,” Kalinowski said. “We have a gentleman who comes in every morning to pray.”
The ECHS plans on continuation renovations to the chapel in the spring. Anyone who is interested in helping with the project can contact Kalinowski at 776-1032.

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