St. Gabriel’s Chapel at Coecles Harbor on Shelter Island was demolished last week.
All that was saved from the Shelter Island landmark was its stained glass windows, some of which are to be incorporated into a new community clubhouse being built on the property. Others will be offered to the Shelter Island Historical Society for its collection.
“It breaks my heart,” said Kathryn O’Hagan, who led the effort to raise funds to move the building after it was learned that it wouldn’t be kept somewhere on the site.
“The old wooden landmark now rests in a dumpster. We’re very sad,” Ms. O’Hagan said in an email, speaking on behalf of herself and her husband, Dave Klenawicus, who had offered land on Ginny Drive as a new home for the structure.
The chapel, built in 1938, was revered by many Shelter Islanders as well as by members of the Passionist Fathers, who owned the property before selling it to developer Richard Hogan of Pandion Acquisitions, LLC.
Mr. Hogan’s initial plans were to retain the deconsecrated chapel and move it to another part of the approximately 25-acre property, where it would provide a basic structure for the clubhouse.
But a firm he hired to inspect the structure determined that it was too old and unstable to be moved. His attorney, William Fleming, told the Planning Board last March that it would have to be demolished.
An inspection by Shelter Island town engineer John Cronin Jr. a month later pronounced the building in shape to be moved, but that effort ran into two roadblocks.
The first was raising enough money, about $100,000, to move the structure. The second was complaints from residents of Ginny Drive, many of whom have young children. They feared relocating the building to the lot owned by Mr. Klenawicus would increase traffic on the street.
The St. Gabriel’s property, which was once a summer retreat for youths hosted by the Passionists, sold for $15.1 million in April 2015. It had been on the market since 2009.
Current plans for the property include six multi-million-dollar homes, a community clubhouse, a boathouse and docks.
As boards considering various aspects of the Pandion development acted to move that project forward, it became obvious the chapel’s days were limited.
“So many wonderful and kind islanders, friends and supporters, stood tall for us and our biggest fan was our incredible town supervisor, Jim Dougherty,” Ms. O’Hagan said. “He pushed hard for the project and we came within inches of making it happen.
“We raised enough funding to move the chapel and pour a new foundation in under 90 days, with our family matching every penny pledged.”
Ultimately, the money donated was returned to those who had contributed.
The plan called for the family to maintain the structure and lease it to the town for $1 per year for any purpose, she said.
“We live and learn in life [and] in the future, we need strategic town legislation to save precious Island history, so this never occurs again,” Ms. O’Hagan said.
Mr. Hogan couldn’t be reached for further comment on the demolition, but had said earlier there would come a point when he would have to move forward with it.
Photo caption: St. Gabriel’s Chapel fell to the wrecking ball last week as work to clear the site for the future Pandion housing development proceeded. (Credit: Julie Lane)