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Lakeside Heritage Trail
30. Chapel In The Woods
731 Maple Avenue
Chapel in the Woods circa 1940
Chapel in the Woods 2017
Chapel in the Woods was a rustic outdoor amphitheater that originally was located at the south end of Central Avenue at Seventh Street. Built in 1940 by the Epworth League of Northeast Ohio and the Ohio Annual Conference of the Methodist Church, the peaceful space seated approximately 1,000 people. Initially, various youth groups were the primary users of this wooded outdoor setting. The first recorded marriage ceremony took place on August 30, 1942, uniting Miss Geraldine Ryan and Mr. Arthur Mink. The wedding was followed by a festive breakfast at Hotel Lakeside.
In 1962, Central Avenue would be extended to reach Lakeside’s campground facilities. Unfortunately, Chapel in the Woods stood in the way of progress. Because the Chapel was so integral to youth programming, the outdoor amphitheater was relocated to its present location near Maple Avenue and the South Gate. The Barss family, who had been visiting Lakeside for more than 100 years, made this possible. Mabel Barss led the Girls School of Mission for more than 20 years. When she passed away, the Barss family donated the funds to move the amphitheater and dedicated the space as the Barss Chapel in Mabel’s memory in 1962.
By the early 1980s, the Chapel was showing its age. In 1986, long-time Lakesider, Methodist Pastor and Lakeside Board Member Les Cunningham passed away. His family took the opportunity to memorialize Les by funding the restoration of the spiritual gem. As Dean of the Reach Out youth camp program, Les’s daughter Carolyn Beears asked the young campers to adopt its restoration as a mission project. With hard work, they completed the project in one week! The Chapel was once again ready to host youth of all ages.
Lakeside’s outdoor chapel remains a spiritual haven for Lakesiders and visitors of all ages and faiths. Two plaques are posted, honoring the Barss family and Les Cunningham to this day. This peace-filled space has hosted hundreds of youth groups, weddings, memorial services and individuals over the years, and will continue to do so for many years to come.