When the kerosene lamps were being rewired during the recent Lambert’s Cove Church restoration, a shopping list for a ham and bean supper was found in the walls.

“It was written in the most beautifully blue ink writing from a quill, it was dated to 1895,” Joshua Yates said. “It called for five pounds of salted pork and barrels of beans.”

The restoration of the 19th century church and parish house was a three-year commitment taken on by Mr. Yates and his partners, Neal Kaplan and Lisa Foster. The restoration was a project done in full view of the public and one where every time you passed by, the buildings began to regain some character. This past weekend offered everyone a chance to finally walk inside and enjoy the results. The parish house has been converted into a private residence, and, for the moment, the church had been reborn as an art gallery displaying Mr. Yates’ work. Landscapes of familiar Vineyard scenes such as Inkwell Beach and ferry boats at night dotted the walls.

living room
No more kneeling, church is set to recline. — Ivy Ashe

Mr. Yates said neighbors stopped in throughout the weekend to applaud their work and share stories.

“When we bought the property it still had the pews set out, the hymnals were right where they had left them, it looked like people had just gotten up and left,” he recalled. At an open house last year the original church pews were offered back to the parishioners whose families once sat on the benches every week. A few people came in to tell Mr. Yates what had become of them.

“One person took it back to his house in Vermont, one went to a church in Edgartown, another to the church in Chilmark. One neighbor who lives down the road . . . was telling me how he sits in it every day to put on his shoes, and he’s so happy to sit down and use it every day right at the entrance of his house.”

painting artwork
Art show included work from past two decades. — Ivy Ashe

Mr. Yates, Mr. Kaplan and Ms. Foster each used their skill sets to restore the property as historically accurate as possible, Mr. Yates said. The painter is also an architect, Mr. Kaplan a builder who specializes in historical renovations, and Ms. Foster an interior architect.

Everything was remodeled and renovated from the ground up.

“We tried to save all the historic details and as much character as we could,” Mr. Yates said. “We took the church and completely restored the exterior and completely modernized the interior.”

The church is now zoned as a detached bedroom, and indeed a large contemporary bed, living area and dining table now stand where the old pews once did. But turn your head upwards and the original ornate iron worked ceiling has been restored, the kerosene sconces still light the room, and the old wide pine floorboards appear new.

Mr. Kaplan took out all the windows himself, removed each individual windowpane, reconditioned them the “old fashioned way” and put the glass back in the window.

The exterior was one of the more challenging projects.

“It took months just to paint the outside of the house because to scrape it down to bare wood, it had probably never been bare wood since 1845 and never been exposed or scraped all the way down,” he said. “That’s how extensive it was.”

The support from the community kept the project alive, Mr. Yates said.

“One of the nicest things was the encouragement, acceptance and warmth we’ve felt from the neighbors because they’ve been so happy to see the buildings come back,” he said. “It’s made them feel connected and they’ve always felt connected to the place because they’ve looked at it for years.”

For now the buildings will remain for private use. There is no long-term plan for the church, but Mr. Yates said he was looking forward to sharing his oil paintings with the community.

Lately he’s been painting the view from Lambert’s Cove Beach, but he has many favorite painting locations.

“The wonderful thing about this place is I always find somewhere new, I turn a corner and there’s some new view I’ve never seen and I’ve been painting here for 20 years,” he said. “I’m always surprised, there’s always something new and exciting.”


For more information on the church and gallery e-mail yatesgallery@hotmail.com.