Since I began writing about houses, it has been a special pleasure to find homes that had previous lives as other uses. One featured house in Talbot County had been a deconsecrated church so I was intrigued to discover today’s Kent County feature, the former Mowbray Chapel that has been stylishly renovated as weekend get-away or event venue. Mowbray Chapel began its life in 1865 when the Methodist Episcopal Church bought the 3.22 acre site and built Walton Chapel. Its short life may have ended in 1889 when the building caught fire and was destroyed. Pastor W. R. Mowbray was undeterred and the chapel that now bears his name was rebuilt a year later. Mowbray Chapel’s ministry soon extended to the community of Cliff City and neighboring farms and became a center of not only religious but also social activity.
As the Shaker song said, “Tis the gift to be simple..” and Mowbray Chapel’s simple one-story, pitched roofed rectangular building is articulated with earth toned brick facades laid in common bond with pilasters at the corners of the main entry at the northern gable and the sanctuary that projected slightly beyond the southern gable. The blue accent color was chosen for the gables, main roof and cupola. Both side elevations have three bays, separated by pilasters with the walls infilled by wide and tall 12/12 double-hung windows that flood the interior with sunlight. The front entry is detailed with a granite sill and step leading to the double paneled doors painted slate blue flanked by half glass, half paneled sidelights, eleven light full transom with a molded bar, with white pilasters below the architrave.
Over the years, as Mowbray Chapel’s congregation dwindled, the building was eventually abandoned and began its slow decline until 1963 when the property was sold. A new roof was added and some minimal repairs were made to slow down further deterioration. The final chapter in this unique property that is one of the few authentic Greek Revival structures in Kent County began in 2017 when new Owners fell under its spell and began its transformation into the gem it is today.
They left the exterior as-is but saw great potential in the large open space with high ceilings, exposed brick walls with bands of accent colored brick, sunlight streaming through the wide and tall multi-paned 12/12 windows onto the beautiful wood floors. In one front corner they added a full bath and laundry and left the rest of the space open so furniture could be easily arranged and added the Murphy bed. Dark trim around the doors and large windows and a fully equipped kitchen completed the look for their new weekend getaway/event venue.
The floor plan is a perfect blend of open plan living-dining-kitchen areas with enclosed service spaces of bath and laundry. Even small houses need a sense of entry and the front doors open into a compact foyer with a coat closet and alcove for a small chest. To the right of the doors is the “U” shaped kitchen with the sink below the wide and tall window. The light countertop contrasts with the deep gray-green cabinetry and one countertop leg of the “U” is widened for bar stools. To the left of the foyer is the full bath and sliding doors to the laundry space.
As you move past the kitchen the space feels like an urban loft that ends in a vista to the former Chapel sanctuary which is now another kind of sanctuary as a cozy sitting area with side windows. My only suggestion would be to add windows at the rear wall of the sanctuary for wrap around windows to maximize views to the woods.
In the open space, I loved how only the lower windowpanes are covered by paneled shutters for seated and standing privacy that allows sunlight to penetrate deep into the interior spaces through the upper windowpanes with their detail of an arched muntins at the top row. The headers of the majestic windows are just below the ceiling height that accentuate the height of the space’s volume.
My first studio apartment had a Murphy bed and they are a great solution for a small space and against the rear wall next to the former sanctuary is a Murphy bed for overnight stays. In homage to the original use of the building, there is a long former church pew along the side wall for extra seating across from the seating area grouped around the wood stove. The dining table accommodates six or more people or could become a buffet table for large gatherings. The neutral colors of the upholstered and wood furniture against the backdrop of the interior brick walls creates a warm and inviting environment. After seeing this fantastic space, I made a mental note to book Mowbray Chapel for a fall weekend to explore the walking trail that meanders through the 3.22 wooded acreage and to later enjoy the peace and quiet over dinner with friends.
Mowbray Chapel can easily host private cocktail parties, dinners, art or product showings, photography sessions and your own special events. Amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi, bottled water, coffee and juice; linens, towels and plush bathrobes and Aveda botanical bath products.
The property is for sale, but hopefully new owners will continue to host guests. To book your getaway, visit https://mowbraychapel.com/ .
For more information about this property, contact Chris McClary, who helped sponsored this article with Gunther McClary Real Estate at 410-275-2118 (o), 410-708-2614 (c) or [email protected]. For more pictures and pricing, visit https://gunthermcclary.com/ , “Equal Housing Opportunity.” Photography by Stephen Buchanan, [email protected].
Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.