In the 1880s, tobacco magnate Francis S. Kinney was faced with a dilemma. Francis and his wife Mary had a summer cottage along the banks of Stickle Pond, in the mountains of northern New Jersey (via
The Smoke Rise and Kinnelon Blog). Although the cool lake waters and temperate airs were more pleasant than their home in New York City, it did present the Kinneys with an issue: Mary, a devout Catholic, had to travel seven miles to attend worship services at the nearest church. As any good husband would do, Francis decided to build Mary her own chapel on an island in Stickle Pond! Not content with a simple church, Francis hired Louis Comfort Tiffany (the son of Charles Tiffany, founder of luxury jewelry store Tiffany and Co.), to design and decorate the interior of the chapel. Best known for his exquisite glass working in lamps and stained glass, the chapel would be one of twelve churches that Louis Comfort Tiffany would design in his career, and it is one of only six that have survived into the twenty-first century (via Jersey’s Best).
When a larger church was built nearby, the chapel fell into disuse in the mid-20th century. It then suffered severe damage at the hands of teenage vandals in the late 1950s. However, beginning in the 1980s, a group of volunteers began the long and arduous process of restoring the chapel to its former glory. The lake where the chapel sits is now wholly surrounded by a gated community known as Smoke Rise, and potential visitors must get permission to see this one-of-a-kind church. Fortunately, my wife discovered that the
Kinnelon Heritage Conservation Society, which oversees the chapel, is offering free tours by appointment! We booked our visit much earlier this summer, and on a warm, beautiful day in early August, we were going to the chapel…
Come along then, on a visit to a 134-year old church. We’ll also cross off some more stops from our NJ Monthly Selfie Checklist, before wrapping up with a few updates.
St. Hubert’s Chapel
Located an hour northwest of New York City, St. Hubert’s Chapel is in the town of Kinnelon in Morris County.
After taking the highway for most of the trip, the last several miles were on winding, forested two-lane roads that led up into the mountains. With almost no traffic, and high speed limits, it was my kind of Saturday drive!
Established after World War II, Smoke Rise is one of the first gated communities in the nation. What is pictured isn’t a home… it is the gate house to enter the community. We gave our name to the guard, who provided us with a map and wished us well on our journey.
After a drive through a few miles of twisting roads (which we spent mostly gawking at the gorgeous homes that dotted the landscape), we arrived at the parking lot near the boat launch.
After checking in with the volunteer who was coordinating trips for visitors, we boarded a small pontoon boat and were ferried across Lake Kinnelon to the chapel.
Perched on such a small island, the chapel seems to almost hover above the lake.
The tower of the chapel houses both a clock that chimes every hour on the hour, as well as a bell. The clock is hand-wound, so once a week a volunteer must cross the lake to ensure it keeps time.
As you enter the church, a large Celtic cross looms over you. This is but one of the stunning pieces that Louis Comfort Tiffany created for the chapel.
We stepped into the chapel just as Tom Kline, who has dedicated over a half century of his life to restoring St. Hubert’s, began to give a talk. He told us of the history of the chapel, the significant vandalism that occurred on the site, and the past forty years of repairs and restoration.
Over several nights in 1957, teenagers repeatedly vandalized the chapel, destroying or severely damaging much of the interior. Many of the stained glass windows were smashed, and the altar itself was broken into pieces and thrown into the lake. Working from old photographs, restorers have painstakingly recreated the altar and its intricate frontispiece.
On the floor behind the altar is Louis Comfort Tiffany’s mark – his initials in a tile mosaic. It was so subtle I would have missed it if not for my wife’s sharp eyes.
The windows had to be painstakingly restored. Louis Comfort Tiffany did not paint stained glass – he instead used lead glass to create windows with vibrant colors. The glass Tiffany used is no longer available, but the restorers had the foresight to purchase a large quantity of it in the early 1980s, allowing windows, such as this scene of St. Hubert with his hunting dog, to be restored.
Some of the items that were thought lost were able to be recovered. For instance, this small statue of St. Peter was found on the bottom of the lake when police were searching for a necklace which had been lost beneath the waters (as the story goes, the necklace was “accidentally” deposited in the lake in the hopes of an insurance payout, but the insurance company hired the police to search for it).
Fortunately, much of the woodworking and plaster has remained in tact, such as this woodland scene above the confessional. Sadly, five statues that once stood in the scene, designed by Tiffany, have been lost.
These cherub faces on the side of the confessional survived as well.
The wooden ceiling is completely original.
I don’t know what is more impressive – the masterpiece of design from Tiffany, or the blood, sweat, and tears of the restorers who have given years upon years of their lives to rebuild this chapel.
The front door was also rescued from the bottom of the lake – vandals threw it beneath the water as well. After years of restoration work, it is back where it belongs, as it would have appeared in 1887.
After nearly an hour on the small island, we boarded our boat and headed back to the Jeep. As I took this parting photo, I marveled at the thought of New Jersey’s little-known treasures. For such a small state, it is filled with hidden gems such as St. Hubert’s Chapel.
Departing Kinnelon, we checked the map and realized we would be passing two more stops on our NJ Monthly “Get Out and Play” selfie challenge checklist. We stopped by Kip’s Castle in the town of Montclair. Built in the early 20th century by a wealthy inventor, it was designed to look like a medieval Norman castle. It is now a public space owned by Essex County.
Our last stop of the day was… a jewelry store? Walter Bauman Jewelers in West Orange is sponsoring the NJ Monthly selfie challenge, and so one of the selfie locations is their store. That’s fair. And as one of the prizes for completing the challenge is the possibility of a gift certificate to their store, I’d say it’s worth a shot.
We had to take the Garden State Parkway home, and got caught up in all the traffic heading to the shore. Just in case my last few posts weren’t clear enough… this is why you try to avoid the Parkway in the summer.
After a memorable day in northern NJ, we returned home. Grace, my wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, was a fantastic companion for our trip, handling the mountain roads of northern NJ with ease. Less than 200 miles now until the big 70,000 mark. Onward! Selfie Challenge Sunday
The next day, after a leisurely morning, my wife and I decided to pull the Accord out of the garage and cross a few more locations off the Selfie Challenge checklist.
Heading to the western half of the state, we encountered zero shore traffic. I enjoy driving my wife’s Jeep, but it felt good to be back in the Accord once again. At this point, my car is like an old, broken-in baseball glove… it fits perfectly. Clinton and The Clean Plate Kitchen
Our first stop was the town of Clinton, New Jersey. You might recognize the Red Mill from our previous visit to Clinton three years ago as part of a day-long road trip my wife planned for my birthday.
We ambled by the Clinton Community Farmer’s Market for some fresh produce. The market operates every Sunday from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm during the summer months. Any guesses what we bought?
Many of the oldest roads in our nation were built upon trails used by Native Americans long before the founding of the colonies. I appreciate that Hunterdon County thought it important to place this marker.
We had come to Clinton to pick up lunch at a local favorite restaurant, but arrived early, and spent some time wandering through the town. We killed some time by walking across Main Street Bridge, an iron truss bridge built in 1870. Given its age, and its unique construction, it is considered one of the most historically important bridges in the nation (via historicbridges.org).
After enjoying this view of downtown Clinton, we took a short walk to The Clean Plate Kitchen, a terrific restaurant that focuses on healthy, allergen-free meals made from locally sourced ingredients. Although it is lovely to sit at a table on their outdoor deck, we would not be staying at Clean Plate Kitchen… we got takeout, as we had miles to go, and several stops to make. Unionville Vineyards
Our next destination was Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes. Unionville allows visitors to bring their own food, so my wife picked it as a spot to enjoy our lunch with a delicious glass of locally-made wine.
Arriving around 12:30 pm, the only guests were us and one other small family. We found a pleasant picnic table in the shade, ordered a couple glasses of wine, and sat down for a leisurely lunch. A guy could get accustomed to this!
I had the “Chicken You Out” wrap – roasted chicken, creamy apple cider vinaigrette, with walnuts, raisins, celery, red onions, and mixed greens. My wife had the “You Guac My World” – roasted chicken, nitrate-free bacon, pickled onions, avocado, baby spinach, and vegan caesar dressing. Both sandwiches were prepared on gluten-free wraps (which is the only kind of wraps The Clean Plate Kitchen serves), and served with plantain chips. Between the delicious food and the tasty wine, it was a wonderful lunch!
Full, and satisfied, we set off for our next destination. Green Sergeant’s Covered Bridge
Our first selfie of the day would be in front of Green Sergeant’s Covered Bridge in the town of Stockton. Built in 1872, it is the last surviving covered bridge in New Jersey.
“Car Selfie” complete! The bridge has been damaged numerous times in its history. In fact, after an accident in 1960, it was taken apart (and all the pieces were saved – this is important to the story) and a more modern bridge was constructed in its place. So beloved was the old covered bridge, though, that when the new structure was unveiled, there was an uproar from local residents. Less than a year after the new bridge went up, it came back down and the old bridge was reassembled from all its original parts (via Atlas Obscura).
How did it feel to drive across a nearly-150 year old bridge? Noisy. The bridge was designed for horse-drawn carriages, not modern cars, and so the wood planks make a lot of noise as you drive across. It’s also quite narrow. While my Accord fit through just fine, I wouldn’t want to drive across in any larger of a vehicle. After traversing the bridge and completing our selfie, it was on the way to our next destination. Trenton Battle Monument
We next headed south to Trenton, the state capital. There, we stopped by the Trenton Battle Monument. Erected in 1893, the monument celebrates the American victory against the British in the Battle of Trenton in 1776 (via Wikipedia). Roebling Museum
Our final stop was to the Roebling Museum. At one time, this was the site of an enormous steel mill and company town. The Roebling steel mill created steel wire that, among other uses, was integral to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The museum celebrates the industrial achievements of this section of New Jersey.
After another fun day on the road, the Accord brought us once again safely back home. It is inching toward 178,000 miles – a trip planned for next week should put it to that mark, and well beyond. Updates
Before closing, I had a few automotive updates to share from some friends, along with a status report from my Accord’s latest scheduled maintenance.
My friends Jessie and Ryan, who purchased a 2020 Honda CR-V last year, sent me an update on their new ride when it crossed the 5,000 mile mark. I love it when people understand what a car nerd I am. Congrats, Jessie and Ryan! Here’s to many more happy miles with your CR-V.
Readers will also remember my friend Justin, whose 2003 Honda Accord coupe has over 800,000 miles (835k the last time I checked). While he’s still going strong with that car, he recently purchased another Accord for fun – a 2017 Honda Accord EX-L V6 coupe. It is in absolutely fantastic shape. Justin traveled from his home in Texas all the way to Ohio to pick up this car. And while I approve of any Honda purchase, this one has an extra special feature…
Look closely in the center console – this car is as rare as a unicorn. It has a V6 engine and a manual transmission. Compared to the legion of Accord sedans on the road, Honda made fewer coupes, even less coupes with V6 engines, and a remarkably minuscule number of coupes with V6 engines and manual transmissions. This also means that Justin now owns the first year of the V6-manual Accord (2003) and the last year of its production (2017, the final year Honda built the Accord coupe). Congratulations on this beauty, Justin! Here’s to many happy miles with it.
Speaking of Accord coupes, my car was due for maintenance, so I took it to Honda of Bridgewater. I have used this dealer for some emergency repairs (such as the seized brake caliper this past March). They do good work, and their prices are reasonable, so I decided to take my car to them for its scheduled oil change, tire rotation, and transmission fluid change.
Once again, the inspection report came back with all good grades. The car is scheduled to get a new set of tires before the end of the summer, but aside from that, fingers crossed for smooth sailing until the next oil change! Wrapping Up
Although at no point were we more than an hour from our home, my wife and I spent a wonderful weekend exploring hidden gems throughout our state. After being closed to visitors due to the pandemic, St. Hubert’s Chapel is once again open, on a limited basis, for tours. If you are interested, you can contact the
Kinnelon Heritage Conservation Society to arrange for a visit. Reservations are required, but the visit is free of charge. If you are interested in New Jersey history, beautiful artwork created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, or simply want to see a one-of-a-kind building in the middle of a beautiful lake, you should definitely pay a visit to St. Hubert’s Chapel!
As always, thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.