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Western Pennsylvania Conservancy takes tiny Hickman Chapel under its wing

Mary Pickels
| Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, 8:57 p.m.

Nestled along Route 381 in Mill Run, Fayette County, the Hickman Chapel is a more than 100-year-old landmark for local residents.

One mile south of the entrance to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, fronting a small cemetery, the white, clapboard-covered chapel is now part of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy .

Constructed in 1901, the chapel recently was donated to the Conservancy for restoration, preservation and eventual public use, according to a news release.

"We feel that is a landmark on the landscape here that is really important. As little congregations began disappearing, maybe consolidating with another church, the older people who maintained it have died off. ... When the congregation, the remnants of their congregation, came to us, they were all worried about what would eventually happen. They didn't want a restaurant or something like that. They didn't want 'demolition by neglect'," says Lynda Waggoner, Fallingwater director and Conservancy vice president.

Long a meeting place for church services, weddings, gatherings and funerals for community residents in the Stewart Township area, the building last was used for worship services in the 1980s.

Remaining members hoping to preserve the chapel and its importance to local history worked with Conservancy staff to donate the site and its associated cemetery.

Preserving local history

According to the release, the property falls within an important corridor for protection identified in the recent Laurel Highlands Scenic Viewshed Analysis and Protection Plan.

Protecting the chapel also 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.

Once common features of rural landscapes, buildings such as the chapel are becoming increasingly rare, Waggoner says.

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.

According to the Conservancy, improvement plans — current and ongoing — include a new roof, restoration of the wood siding, exterior painting and window conservation. Conservancy staff at Fallingwater will preserve, maintain and manage the chapel and cemetery as part of the Bear Run Nature Reserve.

"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," Waggoner says.

As part of its effort to help interpret Hickman Chapel's history, the Conservancy is seeking memorabilia, photographs and artifacts related to the building and cemetery.

Items may be donated by contacting Fallingwater registrar Rebecca Hagen at 724-329-7822.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

The Hickman Chapel, built in Mill Run, Fayette County, in 1901, is now owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for restoration, preservation and eventual public use.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
The Hickman Chapel, built in Mill Run, Fayette County, in 1901, is now owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for restoration, preservation and eventual public use.
Remaining members of the Hickman Chapel, along Route 381 near Fallingwater, have entrusted its future care to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Remaining members of the Hickman Chapel, along Route 381 near Fallingwater, have entrusted its future care to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
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