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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meet Tom Kline

Tom Kline is an amazing man in my estimation. He is responsible for the ongoing restoration of St. Hubert's Chapel. Talk about boundless passion for a historic labor of love.

He started the project as a teenager. The story I heard is that he created a calendar with photos of the chapel and went door to door selling the calendar to raise money.

Cornie Hubner writes the following in a Didja Know? article [written in the late 1980s]:

"For the last 14 years, one man has been making heroic efforts to research and restore St. Hubert's Chapel on the lake. Despite vandalism and the ravages of nature, his efforts and that of his family have made progress in one direction while losing ground in others. These many hours of research, hard labor and no little personal expense will have been wasted unless the project is recognized, supported and funded."

Cornie provides historic perspective on the construction of the chapel, which the Kinneys used for family mass into the 1920s. The chapel served the Smoke Rise community in the early 1950s until the congregation became too large and services moved to the Smoke Rise Inn.

He continues: "There followed a period of destruction by vandals which was not discovered until too late. A reward of $100 was offered and several perpetrators were discovered. Little or no action was taken and damage to a greater or lesser degree continued. Several efforts were made to organize restoration programs but lacking protection, no progress was made.

The curiosity of the son of a long time Smoke Rise resident led him to research that soon resulted in his approved restoration activity. With the help of his family and their financial assistance, this produced some lasting results.

The clock works and chimes, requiring replacement parts mostly hand made, were restored to full working order. Soothing chimes, from the huge brass bells rang out across the lake and resounded in the hills until the nightly serenade caused some annoyance and were stopped. The unique soothing sound can again be enjoyed if we can provide a control to allow its performance only during daylight.

The damaged clock faces were reproduced by making almost 1000 wood screws and many special parts. More than 2,000 pieces of colored glass have been designed to remake the mosaic back of the altar. A new roof is being prepared for the Belfry and when help is obtained will be erected to protect the delicate controls from the nesting birds whose droppings and other debris threaten the painstakingly restored equipment.

Tom Kline, for many years residing on Ski Trail, is continuing his solitary efforts to preserve our unique inheritance. His dedicated untiring efforts can only succeed if a concerted drive is made to enlist help and financial support. This provides an opportunity to contribute your ideas, exercise your artistic talents and have the satisfaction of preserving a historic landmark. Tom will be very happy to hear from you and give you the details."

Tom routinely conducts tours of St. Hubert's Chapel to tell its story. I've been on two tours, the most recent this past July 6. Both took place around the July 4th holiday Smoke Rise Days, with residents volunteering to boat visitors out to the island, and back.

Last summer, Tom also presented a historic slide show with the most amazing images of Smoke Rise and Kinnelon in the time of Francis Kinney. I wish the slide show were a regular presentation at the Inn or at the Kinnelon library. It's marvelously full of information and perspective on the area.

Cornie Hubner ends his Didja Know? article with a plea to support the restoration of the chapel.

I end this post with the same plea to please support St. Hubert's Restoration by sending a tax deductible contribution via check payable to the Kinnelon Heritage Conservation Society, Inc., address: 1 Perimeter Road, Kinnelon, NJ, 07405.

BTW, Tom Kline sits on the Kinnelon Historical Commission.

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