Abandoned Quebec: Henrysburg Church

For years on my travels from Burlington to Montreal, I’ve caught glimpses of a small brick church beside the highway giving me an “abandoned” vibe. Even from the highway at 60mph, I could see that this church didn’t have any windows.

Finally, I was able to take a detour to visit this church. Getting off the exit at Henrysburg, Quebec, I was stunned. At first, there didn’t appear to be a way to get to the church, as it appeared to be encircled by the highways and ramps, without an access road. Fortunately, that was not the case. A small road off the access ramp led to the church.

A view from the side of Autoroute 15.

A view from the side of Autoroute 15.

The stone is the edge of the church property. See Autoroute 15 and the overpass. The church is practically in traffic.

The stone is the edge of the church property. See Autoroute 15 and the overpass. The church is practically in traffic.

See that island of trees? The church sits in there.

See that island of trees? The church sits in there.

Just sitting there in the middle of an interchange. (I do not know what Noel Canada means in this location.)

Just sitting there in the middle of an interchange. (I do not know what Noel Canada means in this location.)

The access road leading to the church.

The access road leading to the church (looking back to the highway on/off ramp). 

Despite the proximity to Autoroute 15, this is one of the most peaceful locations that I have visited. The church sits in an oasis of trees. The grass is mowed, probably because there is an active (as recently as 2012) cemetery on site.

Henrysburg Methodist Church, 1861.

Henrysburg Methodist Church, 1861.

Church & cemetery hiding in the trees.

Church & cemetery hiding in the trees. And, no windows on the church. 

The cemetery beside the church.

The cemetery beside the church.

Some headstones date to the mid to late 1800s.

Some headstones date to the mid to late 1800s. That’s the highway in the background. 

Others are much more recent, including up to 2012.

Others are much more recent, including up to 2012.

It's always sad to see a vandalized headstone. I wonder if this person's descendents have any idea.

It’s always sad to see a vandalized headstone. I wonder if this person’s descendents have any idea.

View on the other side.

View on the other side.

Front of the church. Note the tower is covered in vinyl. Meaning, not all that long ago, someone "cared" to take care of this church.

Front of the church. Note the tower is covered in vinyl. Meaning, not all that long ago, someone “cared” to take care of this church.

I was not expecting to find what I did when I looked in the church windows.

Rubble!

Rubble!

The interior was completely stripped of all materials - walls, floorboards, everything!

The interior was completely stripped of all materials – walls, floorboards, everything!

Upon further investigation, I found a demolition permit. It expired in 2014. Perhaps they started and were stopped?

Upon further investigation, I found a demolition permit. It expired in 2014. Perhaps they started and were stopped?

Montee Henrysburg.

The former address: 138 Montee Henrysburg.

I stood there fascinated while simultaneously feeling like I was attending a building’s funeral, or memorial service and having so many questions. Why is this church stripped of everything? How long has it been in the middle of this interchange? When was the roadway completed? Why was demolition stopped? Is there a community group, or perhaps the descendents of the departed have rallied? So many thoughts and questions. What are yours?

Presumably, the church was active until the overpass was constructed, until Autoroute 15 was widened or completed. The road was completed around the 1960s, though I cannot find a definitive date, nor one for roadway upgrades such as widening. A lot of google searching reveals only that the church was constructed as a Methodist Church in 1861 and active until 1975, but burials have continued until 2012.

And why strip the church? Perhaps to protect it from fire? It’s much harder to burn a brick building than one filled with wood and other flammable objects.

Does anyone care about this church? I cannot think of another example of a building stuck in the middle of an interchange. One on level, the interchanged caused the demise of the building. Yet, it’s also preserving this structure. It doesn’t appear to be a spot where anything else would be built, so why not leave the church there?

You can see the super-tall  highway lights over the ridgeline of this church.

You can see the super-tall highway lights over the ridgeline of this church.

Do you know anything about this church? I’d love to hear more and find out it’s fate, hopefully with good news.

Lakeview Cemetery

Preservation Burlington hosted a walking tour through Lakeview Cemetery last weekend, just in time for late fall weather and Halloween. After three years of wanting to explore Lakeview Cemetery, this event was just the reminder I needed. On the tour we learned about famous Burlington residents who are buried in the cemetery and how they connect to Burlington history. Built in 1871, the cemetery was designed like a park, with fountains and winding roads and views looking to Lake Champlain. The headstones and monuments do not match throughout the grounds; instead, there are many different styles, plot boundaries and layouts. Read this article from the local paper for more history.

The Louisa Howard Chapel, built in 1882 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

Many varying arrangements of burials.

 

Graves amongst plantings. 

The kind of cemetery that you’d stroll through in all types of weather.

Trees frame this headstone.

 

Foliage.

 

And the cemetery vault, with the chapel in the background. 

I didn’t see any ghosts, but then again it was a sunny morning. Happy Halloween!

Preservation Photos #126

A water fountain in a cemetery in Rochester, VT dedicated to Charles Wesley Emerson (founder of Emerson College in Boston, MA).

Happy Saturday

I hope your Saturday is as lovely as these images from historic Pittsfield, Vermont.

Library in Pittsfield facing the village green.

Flowering crab trees on the Pittsfield Village Green.

Pink flowers on a perfect spring afternoon!

A cemetery across the street from the green.

A serene road in the cemetery.

Have a great weekend!

Preservation Photos #71

Charleston, SC. Photo taken April 2007 by Kaitlin O'Shea.

I love winter and the north, but today something about the warm southern weather and early spring is calling me. How about you?

Preservation Photos #3

Grafton Village Cemetery in Grafton, VT

Cemetery in Grafton, VT

A quiet, peaceful setting for the final resting place of early Grafton settlers. Headstones ranged from granite to field stone, newly engraved or worn away with time and weather.

Preservacation: Reflecting on Funerary Architecture in Eastern North Carolina

Preservacation is a series of essays by Brad Hatch about the preservation related adventures, issues, and sites that he and Lauren have encountered on their travels.  This is #6 in the series.

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By Brad Hatch

What more can I say about gravestones that hasn’t already been said? If you’ve read In Small Things Forgotten (as most of us Mary Wash alumni have) you already know about the seriation of headstones going from death’s heads to cherubs to urns and willows and how that reflects a society’s feelings about death. Rather than trying to understand what long-dead people thought about the headstones in their graveyards I’ll talk about what I know, what I think about them. I don’t want to make this post long, as several of my previous ones have been, so I’ll quickly give you my thoughts then let you come up with your own by showing you some images of the gravestones I’ve encountered in my travels in North Carolina.

I should start by saying that I have a strange fascination with graveyards. I think it must stem from an obsession with things that are not knowable. After all, what is less knowable to us, the living, than death? I know, it’s weird, but if you think about it, as an archaeologist it’s no surprise that I’m taken by these ideas. I deal with the unknowable on a daily basis. I can never know what happened in the past or what things meant to people then, how they felt, what they thought. I only see little glimpses of them in what they’ve left behind and I have to use their little trinkets to come up with interpretations about humanity. While many may think that archaeologists speak about the past in their interpretation it is truly the present that we address. Everything we do is driven by what is happening at this moment in our lives, in society, and in the world. Archaeology, like so many other creative pursuits, is partially a quest to find one’s self, and in my case I use the medium of material culture.

Gravestones are like archaeological artifacts on historic sites. Often they are mass produced, or at least made for mass consumption, which is why they can be seriated. Like artifacts, they carry heavy symbolic meaning, which can be seen in the artwork on them, their shape, or epitaphs. More easily recognized among headstones though is the fact that they are for the living, not the deceased. While some may have chosen their markers, most were likely commissioned after they died. This means that tombstones are often devoid of meaning to the person they commemorate. In actuality, they reflect what others thought of them or what others thought that the deceased held dear or believed.  However, there is always the possibility that the stones represented what the living believed, which is likely the case. This means that the people who placed the stones acted as archaeologists for the deceased. They attempted to know the unknowable, the thoughts of somebody who could no longer tell them. Burying grounds fascinate me because of this.

When I make my way through a cemetery I am effectively doing the archaeology of archaeology. I am interpreting interpretations. It seems quite ridiculous, but I know that one day somebody will be doing the same with my work. In a way I find my “connection with the universe” when I do this. It helps me to realize that even what I do, while it may seem insignificant in the grander scheme, will make an impact on somebody in some way. If I am able to make just one person think about who they are then my job is accomplished.  Now, it’s your turn to think. As you look at the selection of headstones below think about what they mean or what they might have meant. Before you turn away, though, think about why you made the interpretations that you made, what does it say about you? What does it say about the world you live in? It makes no sense to try to understand the past or other societies until we have an idea of the present and our places in it. Enjoy your moments of reflexivity.