Local winery restores old chapel, plans to open event venue

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winery4Nestled in a small grove of trees there is this small chapel known as the New Lebanon Christian Church. It is not quite as old as Elberon, built back in 1880’s. A simple building typical of its day.

Pews were made from hand hewn lumber from the old Surry Lumber Company, located just down the road in Dendron.

There was more than enough seating for its church members, 48 in all back then. Entries in the church records from that time show that a typical Sunday collection ranged from 9 cents up to 31 cents on a good day.

The chapel itself has been upgraded through the decades with a wood and coal stove being replaced by an oil burner, and then that was eventually replaced by a central furnace.

It was a time when maintenance on the chapel was paid for by the Women’s Fellowship with their selling chicken salad, along with homemade rolls and baked goods. But as one would expect over the years, the lumber company closed and the member ship of the church has dwindled down to 10 active members.

During the tough economic times of 1990, members were asked to plant patches of peanuts to help pay for the indebtedness of the church. But the church building remains diligent in the changing times, where on occasion one hewinery2ars the steeple bell ring in celebration.

It is here that the partnership of old and new takes place. Standing on the front steps of the church, off in the distance, one can see a winery.

It is just on the other side of a field of corn stalks from last year’s harvest. Hampton Roads Winery located at White Oak Farm is one of the newest wineries to be built as it participates in the incredible growth of the Virginia’s wine industry.

Unlike other wineries, it was designed to replicate a carriage house, inspired by the activity of the farm’s first owner, Harry Spratley. You see, Harry, of “I’m Just Wild About Harry” fame, raised carriage horses for the New York City carriage trade back in his hay day, living in a huge Victorian home that still oversees the farm.

winery1The farm has had seven owners, and each one added something to the story of the estate. From raising horses, to being a Bed & Breakfast, as a wedding venue, having a landing pad for a helicopter enthusiast, to now a vineyard and winery.

Having had three weddings at the Winery since it first opened in April 2016, the owners Dave and Diane Sheldon reached out to the members of the chapel and inquired if the church could be made available for those that might want a small quaint wedding in a country setting.

To see new life in an old, but well-deserved building was the thought of the current members, as it fulfills the spirit and intentions of the original forefathers of over 100 years ago. They hope that the steeple bell will ring again, and often, in 2017.

Submitted by Dave Sheldon

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