When Father Dan Meyer of Holy Angels Church conducts the All Souls Day Service on November 4, he will be marking the 110th anniversary of the dedication of St Henry’s Memorial Chapel.
The New Bedford stone chapel, designed in the Victorian Gothic style, is the memorial for the 4,000 unidentified people whose remains were reinterred under it when they were moved from St. Henry’s, Dayton’s original Catholic cemetery, in the 1890s. The first burials had taken place in St Henry’s in 1844. By 1872, many of the original families had died out or were financially unable to claim their ancestors gravesites. Floods and ravages of time had left some graves unmarked or stones unreadable. Records for the lots were handwritten and largely unreliable. More than 2,000 marked graves were moved to new locations in Calvary Cemetery during the same period.
Calvary’s Board of Trustees hired Frank Mills Andrews, a prominent midwestern architect who had worked for John Patterson building the National Cash Register Company. Andrews was drawing the Dayton Arcade at the same time he was designing St Henry’s Chapel. Amber and blue leaded windows were crafted by Dayton Art Glass. Black Walnut pews were made by Ohmer Furniture Company. The wood beamed ceiling came from Kuntz Lumber Company.
The chapel was restored in 2004, under the supervision of Bruce Goetzman, a historic preservation architect in Cincinnati.
The chapel’s placement at the crest of the first hill is in keeping with the Victorian garden cemetery tradition and was influenced by Nicholas Ohmer, who laid out the first plots at Calvary in the rural cemetery style. Ohmer worked with the Olmsted Brothers, designers of Central Park, to take advantage of the natural terrain of “The Bluffs” and carve roads through the hilly landscape to create lovely walks with views of the city and the river in the valley below. This design is still evident today, as the cemetery’s oldest sections are a series of terraced planes, offering beautiful sweeping views. When the leaves are off the trees, the Gem City and the Great Miami River sparkle below.