St. Elisabeth's Chapel-by-the Sea was built through the efforts of Mrs. T. Robinson Warren of New Brunswick, NJ as a thank offering for the restoration of the health of her daughter, Cornelia. The original design was a modification of the New Jersey seashore cottage style, using vertical siding and scalloped shingles. While there were alterations to chapel's exterior, the interior of the chapel remained in its original condition.
The chapel was beautiful in its simplicity. Upon entering the building through its small vestibule (narthex), you got the feeling you were in a miniature cathedral. The vaulted ceiling and the transepts were finished in natural wood. The stain glass windows dated back to over 100 years ago, and were restored in 1993.
In 1916, the daughters of the founder deeded St. Elisabeth's Chapel-by-the-Sea to the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey. The description of the memorable day is quoted from the Ocean County Review:
“With the chapel filled to capacity and with the boy’s choir from St. Mark’s Church, Philadelphia, the Ven. R. Bowden Shepherd, Archdeacon of the Episcopal Church, NJ, dedicated the Memorial Chapel of St. Elisabeth on Sunday, July 14, 1916. In a short address before the sermon, Archdeacon Shepherd called attention to the loving devotion of those who had built the chapel in the wilderness by the sea, looking forward to the day when thriving communities would grow up around it. Each timber and shingle, he continued, was a memorial to the devotion and faithfulness of those who had gone before and whose spirit mingles with those present in the dedicatory services."
April 26, 1922 was an eventful day in the history of the chapel. On this day, a brush fire was burning along the railroad right of way when a high northwest wind came up, causing the fire to break out of control. Bayberry bushes adjacent to the tracks quickly caught fire and the waxy brands were blown like fiery torches through the sky. Soon the elegant Victorian hotel on Second Avenue and several cottages, as well as the roof of the chapel, were afire. Through the grace of God, the volunteer firemen were able to save our beloved chapel.
The chapel endured the severe northeasterner of 1962 when two adjacent oceanfront homes were carried out to sea. Two other oceanfront homes were so badly damaged that they had to be torn down. The chapel also survived the northeasterner of 1992 when the water reached to within two inches of the baseboards of the chapel.
For many years we had hopes of holding services in the chapel year-round. In 2005, we installed heat and central air-conditioning, as well as completely insulating the chapel. A new roof was installed. As a result, we achieved our dream and we began to hold services year-round in 2006. Our other dream of having a hall was achieved in 2010.
It was on Sunday, October 28, 2012 and our attendance at the chapel was smaller than usual due to an impending storm. Radio and television broadcasts carried dire warnings. The governor ordered evacuations and residents were packing up and leaving the island. We all thought we would be back in a few days. Little did we realize that this would be the last service in our beloved little chapel. Superstorm Sandy leveled the chapel on its way to the bay, spreading it and its contents as far away as the mainland. Fellowship Hall was severely damaged. We began to realize the unbelievable amount of devastration and, at first, it seemed that all was lost. Tears were shed and a period of mourning set in. Within a week, parts of the chapel were found and returned to us. Fellowship Hall underwent extensive repairs and over Memorial Day weekend, 2013, we started to hold services there. Our planning for replacing our chapel began in earnest.
You can see the progress we are making in the caption "Our new chapel - 2016."
St. Elisabeth’s Chapel-by-the-Sea has been serving the spiritual needs of residents and vacationers of the barrier island since 1885, either in the chapel or in Fellowship Hall.