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By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Not every winery and vineyard has a chapel.
That makes Chaumette Winery and Vineyard unique. In addition to an award-winning restaurant and villas for overnight guests, Chaumette has had its own chapel for 20 years.
St. Vincent’s-in-the-Vineyard is available for worship services, private meditation and weddings.
Owners Hank and Jackie Johnson saved the lovely, historic structure from demolition and had it taken apart and reassembled at the winery.
“The story begins in November of 2002,” Johnson said. That’s when an old friend of mine called me and said that she wanted to show me where she worked. And I thought that was kind of a funny thing to say, too. It was a funny deal, but she was a good friend. So I said sure that I would come.”
It was on a tract of land in Creve Coeur, owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. The 22 acres included a large house and two other buildings.
It was the third building Johnson’s friend wanted to show him.
“And so I walked into this little church,” he said.
He was horrified to find that the land had been sold and the attractive little church would be torn down in favor of million-dollar houses. It’s going to be destroyed, he asked. She said, yes. She said the diocese sold a whole 22 acre lot and build million-dollar houses.
“Well I was saddened by the prospect of the loss of this beautiful little worship space,” he said. “So I went to see the bishop. He was a person that I had known for many years. We had worked together on stuff and so I had an understanding with him about a lot of stuff. Anyway, he was a good guy.”
The bishop had no issues with Johnson salvaging the church. Due to its construction, however, that would prove tricky.
“The building could not be moved because it was a brick building on a slab,” Johnson said. “Solid brick on a slab. It couldn’t be moved.
“So we made a deal. And the deal was that we could take the building apart and rebuild it elsewhere. And elsewhere was Chaumette.”
Johnson wanted to make sure the interior was preserved and put back together exactly as it had been.
“I sent my crew into the building with tape measures,” he said. “They measured every possible angle and opening and so on. And then we sent in another group that took the building apart. All that was left was the four walls and the roof.
“Every window, every door, every electrical fixture, every piece of woodwork, the bathroom, all the furniture there, and all the other parts of the building were moved.”
They took three tractor-trailer loads of parts from the old building and stored it in the basement of the main Chaumette building, where the Grapevine Grill is.
Once they selected a site, the bishop came down and turned the first shovel of dirt in March 2003.
“So we started construction then in March,” Johnson said, “and it was to be a precise, just like the old building, except that the old building was brick.”
It was completed Oct. 3, 2003 and a wedding was held that day.
Since it has held services for various denominations, as well as hosting numerous weddings.
Those taking part in weddings will find changing rooms restrooms and other convenient spaces downstairs.
“After about four years, we started to have Sunday services there,” Johnson said. “And the service grew from zero to where we are today. And the services are held at a very easy hour, 11:15. And after the service is over, we all walk down to the Grapevine Grill, have lunch together, and have some wine.
“So people have come together. And it’s the most wonderful thing for me to see what has happened. That people have gotten to know one another and become friends and work together on all kinds of things. It’s a great experience to watch how this has all come together.”
A rotation of Episcopal priests from St. Louis conduct the services.
It is officially recognized as an Episcopal church – the only one in Ste. Genevieve County.
It has also led to some deja vu moments for visitors who had been in the chapel in Creve Coeur.
“It’s a precise replication,” Johnson said “and there are times I’ve been sitting there just kind of thinking. And I’ve had two or three women walk in and say, ‘Haven’t I been here before?’
“So we’ve had a lot of fun with it, and a lot of wonderful times. We had a lot of seeing people in a different way.”
Johnson is glad he made the decision to rebuild the chapel.
“It’s been a thrill for me,” he said. “It’s been much more than I thought.”