The Belfast Garden Club invites the public for a special Open Garden Day to officially unveil the newly restored cemetery Chapel in the Grove Cemetery Remembrance Garden, Oct. 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Grove Cemetery, 21 Belmont Avenue, Belfast. Historic cemetery tours will be lead by Megan Pinette, president of the Belfast Historical Society, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The event is a special fundraiser for the restoration of historic cemetery features. The $5 admission charge includes delicious refreshments by Carol Gater Catering and cemetery tours (regular season Open Garden tickets do not apply). All proceeds will be donated to The Cemetery Trustees Capital Fund.

The celebration marks the culmination of a multi-faceted cooperative project between Grove Cemetery, The Belfast Garden Club and The City of Belfast; to renovate, update and beautify Grove Cemetery Chapel and surrounding landscape with the goal of reopening the building for use by the public. The project was started in 2003 when the building’s crumbling cellar was replaced with a sturdy and clean concrete slab.

“[At that time] it was either keep [the chapel] by getting it fixed up or let it fall into the cellar hole,“ cemetery superintendent Steve Boguen remembers. ”There wasn’t a campaign to do it, I took it onto myself to budget the money, and the city council agreed to make it happen.”

It is such a beautiful building Boguen couldn’t let it go, he determined that if it got repaired the cemetery may be able to offer it for ceremonies, creating future revenue for the cemetery while also preserving a historic building.

Repairs such as a new roof and shingles have followed. In the past year the interior floor was completely sanded down and refinished, and beautiful wooden pews from the Methodist church on Mill Street were obtained and installed. The original cypress wainscoting and fiberboard walls have been resurfaced, and the lovely green and white glass windows have been cleaned and repaired.

The walls are decorated with framed historic images of the cemetery and city events, from Belfast Historical Society and Penobscot Marine Museum. While preserving much of the original look and feel of the building, originally dedicated in 1916, some updating such as the installation of electricity, and electric baseboard heat will make the chapel comfortable for services in evenings and cooler times of the year.

Oct. 12 will mark 2 years to the day after the first plantings were made by the Belfast Garden Club as they worked to implement a tasteful, beautiful and user-friendly landscape to support chapel functions. Hardscaping changes make outdoor services possible and comfortable including the addition of a raised deck to hold ceremonies on, laying crushed stone around the chapel to assist with easy walking and level seating, and the installation of lovely reclaimed antique planters, a bird bath and stone benches.

All of these changes are blended seamlessly into the landscape with plantings that soften edges and bring the comfort of nature close at hand. Ann Mullen of Belfast Garden Club is the lead gardener of the project.

“The chapel is the main focus,” she said. ”The goal was to enhance the beauty of the chapel, to make it lovely from all four sides with garden beds that are simple, dignified and appropriate for the venue.”

Low lying shrubs that will not block the view of the building include miniature rhododendrons, hostas and creeping bearberry, which have been planted along pathways leading to the new deck and ramp. A shiny-leaved magnolia tree is the centerpiece of a bed directly in front of the chapel. Ringed in stone, it will have brilliant blooms in spring and shimmering lights during the holidays. Pink tulips and other bulbs have been planted for spring color.

More than 20 shade trees have been planted in the chapel area including oak, black gum, birch and Japanese maple. They are part of the community sponsored “Remembrance Trees” program begun last fall. Each tree is now roughly 7 to 12 feet tall, but over time they are expected to grow to be large shady estate trees of between 40 and 100 feet. They provide a lasting addition to the beauty of Grove Cemetery and give the community a public opportunity to honor loved ones with stone mounted plaques at the foot of each tree.

With the addition of the trees and bird bath Ann Mullen has noticed an increase of small birds in the garden over the past two years. Superintendent Steve Boguen has more plans for the chapel area, which will continue to enhance the Remembrance Garden’s attractiveness to wildlife and humans alike. Behind the chapel he has started to dig a retention pond to bring water away from the chapel area. He is hoping to install a fountain and more trees and plantings for visitors to wander through as they enjoy the chapel and garden.

One of the last, not-so-recent ceremonies to take place in the chapel was in 1940 for James Dunton, the last civil war veteran of Waldo County who is buried at Grove Cemetery. The Cemetery Board of Trustees, Steve Boguen and The Belfast Garden Club are delighted to open the chapel for services once more and join in inviting the community to this historic event. Events at the chapel are not limited to funerals. The group also appreciates all of the support offered by the City Manager and the City Council toward the chapel renovation and garden, without whom this project would not have come to fruition.

Directions: Take Main Street west, up the hill, to Grove Cemetery on right. Park within the cemetery on side access roads.

For more information please visit, email or call Ann Mullen at 338-9125.

For more information about chapel rental please contact Cemetery Superintendent Steve Boguen at 338-2264.