Staghorn Chapel


The Second Century

Jack Holder

Staghorn Chapel’s real identity began many years before the grade work and foundation were started in 1999. I have searched worldwide with love and due diligence for the many antique components that now comprise the inspiring Staghorn Chapel, officially opened on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2003 with a sunrise service. On Good Friday, April 18, 2003, Jim Tench, who built the granite base to hold the dogwood cross, placed the cross in its permanent resting place.

The general contractor was Walter Barnett of Nicholson, GA, under whose supervision and fore thought was responsible from the time of the initial grading of the site plan in 1999 to the final concrete pavement for the handicapped parking in April 2003. Walter’s guidance and contribution of time to the construction of Staghorn Chapel cannot be measured in monetary value. I value his friendship and give him thanks for his assistance.

I invite you to learn more about Staghorn Chapel by reading about its history and construction.

Because I chose to create a private place to give thanks to God, I wanted it to be only 15 feet x 20 feet inside. My plans also wanted to incorporate the outside, so I chose a 30 feet x 40 feet courtyard that will give access to the knave and sanctuary through the double doors when opened. In my planning this chapel, the courtyard can open up many opportunities for Staghorn Chapel—weddings, christenings, sunrise services, and Christmas blessings. From the courtyard, a guest can enter through the narthex along a 5-foot walkway or follow around to the 15-foot circular private viewing area of Staghorn Plantation Lake. There is a handicap access area coming to the courtyard, then to the narthex doorway to enter the chapel.

There is a 6-foot set of steps leading down from the narthex entrance of Staghorn Chapel to the roadway and private parking area for Staghorn Chapel. The roadway for Staghorn Chapel has been created out of the same brick pavers that were used for the courtyard, private viewing area, steps to the chapel, and walkways around Staghorn Chapel. This roadway was designed to give personal access parking while leaving room for another vehicle to drive past.

All of the 4 inch x 8 inch x 8 inch x 8 inch brick pavers and granite borders, each 2 inches thick, were salvaged from City Fair downtown Charlotte. City Fair was located between 5th and 6th Streets along College Street where the new Hearst Tower is built. I purchased all this material from DH Griffin Demolitions Company. I transported 7 tractor-trailer loads of those brick pavers and granite borders to be used at Staghorn Chapel.

Basement & Foundation

The foundation for Staghorn Chapel is poured cement walls. The lower areas are poured with 12 inches thick cement and the other walls are 8 inches thick. Rebar reinforcement was added for strength. This foundation was designed to last in excess of 500 years.

The basement area was designed to house the HVAC, electrical controls, and storage for supplies. It will also serve as a facility to store folding chairs that will be used with the outside courtyard.

I used 2 x 6 studs for walls and 2 x 12 rafters. The decking was 1 x 8 tongue and groove boards. I used 3 inch x 12 inch x 24 feet rough sewn California ponderosa pine as exposed ceiling beams that I acquired from a large construction company that originally had purchased the wood in California for its strength, intended to be used in a shoring project along a seawall. They had 20 pieces left over from the project. The floor was supported with 8 inch steel “I beams” and metal sheeting over which 4 inches of cement flooring were poured.

Roof Structure & Design

The roof structure was set on a 14 by 12 angle with stainless steel rods to lock the beams in place. These stainless steel rods will hold the flags of various faiths to show that all are welcome at this chapel. The slate roof was salvaged from Charlotte’s First Presbyterian Church, from part of the church that was founded in 1832 and is now over 175 years old. I then elected to cut some of the slate with a scalloped round edge. I liked this design and used 5 rows on the main roofline and balanced with three rows on the knave over the side entrance. Copper sheeting was used in all valleys and flashing on this roof.

I chose a sunburst design over the entrance door that will welcome all visitors to Staghorn Chapel. The end gable facial board with a Fleur-de-Lys design was again cut out of heavy beams of ponderosa pine from California that I had purchased and salvaged to be used in the chapel.

For the steeple, I chose a cubical design that would look like it was following the same lines on a miniature basis as the original First Presbyterian Church steeple in Charlotte, dating back to 1832. The spiral was made from a piece of old post heartwood purchased from Crosland Studio in Charlotte. The studio had acquired the post from an old home in Connecticut. It was originally used as part of an exterior post support. This post had many coats of various colors of paint over the years. All paint was removed and Anthony Bennett Wood Products used a homemade lathe to turn the post into a 6-foot spiral. It was painted with 3 coats of gold leaf paint and sealed with a clear marine varnish.

Interior Columns

The four granite columns were purchased from Mr. Criss Combis, founder of Charlotte’s Superior Tile and Marble. Mr. Combis had removed these columns from the original Belk store in downtown Charlotte in 1987 when the revitalization for Center City was started so as to build the new Nations Bank Building at Trade and Tryon Streets. The Belk store was built in 1985 and was the original flagship store of the Belk Company. These columns were 37 inches across and 12 feet in length, each weighing in excess of 3700 lbs.

Once the 10-foot stud walls were in place, I had to get a crane to set the granite columns in place. Once situated, every precaution was taken not to scratch or damage these columns in any way during construction.

Black Walnut Wood Structures

I have always loved the richness of black walnut wood — the strength it represents, the shine in the wood, and the many patterns that the grain may portray. Anthony Bennett, with Bennett Cabinet Manufacturing, assumed the responsibility of purchasing and rejecting any 1 inch and 2 inch rough sewn black walnut boards with a minimum length of 12 feet. These black walnut boards could not have any light colored sapwood. I would accept only the dark heartwood of very old black walnut trees.

Mr. Bennett came to Charlotte. We visited Providence United Methodist Church at the intersection of Providence Road and Sharon Amity Road where my family and I are members. We took pictures of the sanctuary at the front of the church; many features of the black walnut woodwork under the three-trinity windows at Staghorn Chapel are similar to the sanctuary at Providence.

Floor Finish

I chose 12 inch x 12 inch x 3/8 inch granite tile for the floor at Staghorn Chapel to match both the columns and rich black walnut wood walls. Jim Tench, who worked for Superior Marble and Tile for many years and was also the construction supervisor for my Charlotte residence, suggested that we inlay this floor with a 4 inch diamond shaped black marble tile and also a 6 inch black marble border stone extending from the corner of the altar pad out to each granite column. We chose a 1 inch thick pad of polished granite that is 5 feet x 10 feet on which we have placed the altar and prayer bench. I have envisioned this area the centerpiece of the chapel by raising it one inch.

Anthony Bennett has made many trips to the Holy Land and has studied the architecture of the old churches. One of his favorites is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. He showed me many pictures that he has taken. It was my goal to purchase some antique wood from the Holy Land to build the prayer bench in order to produce a connection to early Christianity. All of my efforts were unsuccessful. I used the darkest grained black walnut hardwood, featuring the Fleur de Lys at the top with the five point Star of Jacob embossed on the sides, also the wings of angels. This prayer bench is 52 inches wide with a base of 18 inches and height of 50 inches. The kneeling pad will fold away. The prayer bench armrest is 12 inches across and 48 inches wide that will allow two guests to kneel at once for vows.

Trinity Windows

It was a race against time. Many hours were spent trying to remove these windows from the old building at First Presbyterian. I was so afraid the demolition company would just use a wrecking ball and destroy before we could save these windows along with other items of glass. These 3-trinity windows were about 30 feet in the air and I was trying to remove them from a wall about 18 inches thick with cement around them. I also salvaged some diamond shaped leaded glass windows that I have releaded and used on the sidewalls of Staghorn Chapel. I elected to use a border of pink glass around the blue leaded glass. That is the same glass as the trinity windows. This contrast will demonstrate the color that is in the 3-trinity windows. The trinity windows now stand so proudly as the centerpiece of the sanctuary at Staghorn Chapel. This glass is so old and fragile that it is amazing it has survived for so many years. The pinkish purple tint to these antique windows is caused by manganese in the glass over the past 150 years. I was surprised to find that the glass around the edge was still clear when I removed the window puddy.

I contracted Tom Clark of Cairn Studio in Davidson, N.C. to reproduce some of his Biblical statues for the front of the sanctuary. The Chapel now has figurines of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Adjoining them in the center is a large solid bronze facial figurine of Jesus with the crown of thorns.

Star of David Window

The large stained glass window encased in black walnut on the eastern wall of the chapel is quite special. It was located in the old coal bin on the dirt near the steam boiler that was used many years ago to heat First Presbyterian Church. The window was falling apart and all the wooden frames around the stained glass had rotted away. I contacted Mary Ann Parr, a stained glass restorer who lives near Athens. She has successfully salvaged all of the old pieces of stained glass and releaded them into the original design. I asked Mary Ann to create the Star of David in the center of this 175-year-old work of art. The window is placed on the eastern wall to be beneficial to the worship of the Jewish faith. When anyone enters the chapel, the lights will automatically be turned on and will stay on as long as there is movement in the chapel. The stained glass is backlighted in order to show its brilliance.

The Altar

On a trip to Rome in 2001, my family visited the ancient church known as San Pietro in Vincoli. I took many pictures of the alter in the sanctuary. Doug Tippens and Carlos Solares, who are master marble cutters at Superior Marble and Tile, created this magnificent altar for Staghorn Chapel. The materials used are yellow onyx, black diamond marble, and white marble. The exterior Fleur de Lys frame is again 2 inches of solid black walnut. The altar measures 52 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 64 inches high. A marble ledge was also created on top to hold candles. This altar weighs in excess of 1200 pounds. While in Rome, additionally, a crucifix was procured that I left to be blessed by the Vatican priests and now hangs in Staghorn Chapel for visitors of the Catholic faith. Also in Italy, my family visited the town of Amalfi, famous for its handmade paper products. Here I purchased a unique guest registration book made of this exquisite paper.

The Chandelier

The chandelier is the centerpiece of the Chapel. It illuminates the area over the prayer bench and the altar. It is the only major item of the Chapel that has no history. It was chosen for its beauty with its French Napoleonic design. The dore gold, with the French green empire style base, adds to the large antique brass fixtures on the old doors.


The 3-inch wooden double doors were originally built out of heart pine lumber. We removed many coats of varnish and sealer then we restained the wood to match the black walnut paneling on the walls on Staghorn Chapel.

The single door I chose as the entrance to the knave of Staghorn Chapel was originally constructed of oak. This door is 3 inches thick with the antique wooden plugs on the inside of the door. I also salvaged the door hinges, locks, and backplates that are solid brass. These items are very old, and I treasure them. I also was able to reuse the original screws in the door hardware.

There were many raised panels of solid oak used in the expanded door frame at First Presbyterian. I was able to remove these panels and reuse them around the doors at Staghorn Chapel. In my opinion, these add “a touch of class,” and I feel great satisfaction in my diligent efforts to save these antique glass, brass, slate, and wood items to be reused at Staghorn Chapel.

In the apex of the front entrance over the double doors I have installed a very old piece of stained glass that I used in a private prayer room in my home for many years. It came from an old church in New York City. I have no other history on it other than that I have owned it for over 30 years. It is designed with a spot light to illuminate the backside so that it will be very visible from along the highway at night.

The Cross

Many hours were spent by Agustin Nunez searching over 1500 acres for the perfect dogwood tree to create the cross for Staghorn Chapel. It had to be tall, straight and in its declining years, as I did not want to cut a beautiful, young dogwood tree. Augustin was successful in finding two trees, one at a homesite to be bulldozed and another whose top was dead. This dogwood measures over 44 inches at the base. The 2 logs measured, when sawed at Kelly Field’s sawmill, 8 inches x 10 feet long–very straight and solid. They were air dried for 2 years then Anthony Bennett at Bennett Cabinet Shop trimmed and shaped the cross to its present measurement of 7 inches x 7 inches x 9 feet for the upright and the arm 6 inches x 6 inches x 5 feet.

The promontory has a 12 foot x 12 foot foundation for granite and brick pavers. Jim Tench created a centerpiece with a 4 foot x 4 foot base that steps up to a 3 foot x 3 foot base, then to a 2 foot x 2 foot base, with the cross placed in the center. The height of the granite base is 39 inches. The cross extends 8 feet above with a total height of 11.6 feet.

After much searching, i located some hand-split locust posts. Agustin Nunez has built the split rail fence across the front of the lawn, safe guarding Staghorn Chapel from unauthorized access off of GA State Hwy 335. These posts are 7 feet long with average thickness of 4 inches to 6 inches. We used a foundation post of 6 inches off the ground level and 2 other posts to lock the corners at each junction. We used cement to maintain stability for the many years ahead. These posts will support the joining of the 6 rails that give Staghorn Chapel its 3 rail fence that runs about 800 feet guarding the entrance to the planters and roadway into Staghorn Chapel. We have alternated using the red climbing roses and white crepe myrtles every 30 feet along the front of the split rail fence.


It was my goal to search and find trees and plantings with Biblical heritage to use around the chapel. These include sumac, locust, Rose of Sharon, cedar, angel plant, bleeding hearts, peonies, holly, fig, dogwood, olive shrub, sycamore, rosemary, and red buds.

The Mission Statement

Staghorn Chapel is a quiet sanctuary, set apart from the noise of the world, as a place for meditation and prayer. Within its walls, surrounded by beauty and holy calm, are welcomed those who seek the healing power of God’s hand, those who seek to grow in grace and goodness, those who have sinned and seek forgiveness, those who are lost and need guidance, those who are burdened and seek peace. May all who come here depart in the power and peace of God, whose spirit caused this “haven of rest” to be built. May each pilgrim who visits pause to give thanks for the many wondrous blessings God has bestowed.


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