MONONGAHELA – Rich Bucchianeri shines when he talks about the restoration of the historic chapel at Monongahela cemetery.
Indeed, the chairman of the cemetery board said that of all the projects he has been involved in, this is the one he is most proud of.
That’s quite a statement from someone who served as the South Park School District Superintendent and Chairman of the Washington County Authority Board.
There is an open house scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the cemetery on Country Club Road to celebrate and visit the new chapel.
“We hope a lot of people will come and see what we are very proud of,” Bucchianeri said.
The renovations included replacing the deteriorating asphalt roof with a 100 year old slate roof to match the original roof, removing the carpet and restoring the original oak floors, restoring the fireplace, installing new lighting, restoring windows, replacing the bathroom with a new working facility, and installing a new HVAC and duct system.
“We just did a lot of different things to beautify the chapel,” Bucchianeri said.
The chapel is one of the main reasons why the cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. It was designed in 1894 by architect Frank P. Keller and built in 1895 by the Yohe brothers at a cost of $ 3,525.
The descendants of the Yohe brothers actually installed the new roof.
The other contractors were Joel Weygant, Edmund Gessel, Rick Opferman and JED Heating & Cooling.
The first stages of the renovation took place in 2015 when Jay Carson, a board member, presented the board with a check for $ 5,000 for the chapel work.
“So the council hired someone to do a study to determine what exactly we needed to restore / renovate this chapel,” recalled Bucchianeri, who has been chairman of the council since 2000.
In 2017, the board of directors set itself the task of raising the funds necessary to carry out the work.
“One of the ways we raised money was through community donations,” Bucchianeri said.
Over $ 95,000 was raised in donations from 294 individuals and businesses.
“It’s a lot for a small community,” Bucchianeri admitted. “Our community always comes together whenever something needs to be done. We were amazed at the influx of funds the community gave us.
This money was in addition to a grant from the Washington County Local Equity Account of approximately $ 61,000.
Bucchianeri said the goal is to open the chapel to the community for clubs and organizations to use for various functions or maybe even for weddings.
The cemetery is a place for field trips – especially because of the site of the Civil War – which would allow the chapel to be used as a classroom.
“We will encourage the public to take advantage of it,” Bucchianeri said.
There are 4,600 veterans buried in the cemetery among the 37,000 people buried there.
Bucchianeri said there was a bit of work to be done, including installing glass to protect the exterior of the rear window and finishing the basement floor.
“We think we can still use some donations,” he said. “We probably need about $ 20,000 more to really finish this all.”
Anyone wishing to donate can do so by calling Cemetery Superintendent Mark Affinito at 724-258-8700.
“It’s a beautiful setting at the cemetery,” Bucchianeri said. “People use the cemetery on a daily basis. People walk here from open to close. It’s like an oasis in the town of Monongahela.