Saving History: The Old Saint Hilary’s Landmark

March 01, 2021 by Jeff Hadley

Categories: Community Service

The Belvedere-Tiburon area is rich in California history. At Hadley, we value the local landmarks and historical buildings that still stand in our community today. Our pride in the historic importance of these structures is why our team was more than happy to assist in a partial reconstruction of the Old Saint Hilary’s Chapel. Perched on the hillside overlooking the two communities of Tiburon and Belvedere, Old Saint Hilary’s was constructed in 1888 by the Tiburon railroad workers of the time. As stated by the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmark Society, the building is of “significant architectural importance because it is one of the few remaining Carpenter Gothic churches to survive in its original setting.”

When first approached by the Landmarks Society this past summer, Hadley was initially asked to assess the obvious disrepair to the entry of the chapel. However, upon performing a thorough inspection of the building, it became apparent to our team that the damage was more than just cosmetic – it was structural. Various patchwork repairs and serious dry rot over the years had caused severe damage to the columns, walls and structural support underneath the building, which made the entryway unsafe for use. 

While the chapel is a historical and iconic landmark in the community, it is also a popular place for events such as weddings. And with the summer months being the prime nuptial season, the news of the vast entryway repairs was quite a hit to the members of the Landmarks Society, who had several upcoming weddings on the calendar.  At Hadley, we certainly didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news to a bride planning her big day. We are, after all, a company who believes in making dreams happen!

With a little creativity and resourcefulness (but without wanting to cut any corners), our team at Hadley devised a plan. We knew the chapel needed high-quality, rot-resistant lumber for the new support columns. But with lead times for redwood and cedar being 3 to 4 weeks out due to Covid-19, we also knew we didn’t have the time to wait.  We knew it would be double the time for labor and an additional cost overall, we wanted to do it right and were willing to cover it. So our team installed temporary columns that were a lower-quality lumber, but were available immediately. We added little details to give them original character and painted them just as we would the permanent columns that would arrive in a month or so. We finished all of this within the deadline, and the next wedding went off without a hitch (no pun intended).

Weeks later, the high-quality, rot-resistant lumber arrived. Our team went to work, uninstalling the temporary columns of Douglas Fir, and then permanently installing the new support beams that would withstand wear-and-tear for generations to come.

This project was incredibly rewarding to complete. There is a great sense of pride in knowing your work has restored a piece of history for others to enjoy for decades. You can read more about the Landmark Society and the Old Saint Hilary’s Chapel on their official website.

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