Antique chapel chandelier freshened up in time for Hollywood

Carole LaMond

Opalescent rainbow hues bounced throughout the Martha-Mary Chapel from dozens of crystals as craftsmen from Appleton Antique Lighting carefully installed the antique chandelier that, just days earlier, had been in pieces in their Chestnut Hill workroom.

The sparkle from the crystals was reflected in the eyes of employees and trustees of the Wayside Inn as they each found a moment during their work day to gaze up at the restored chandelier which once again held pride of place in the chapel.

"It’s unbelievably stunning," said Guy LeBlanc, the Wayside Inn’s Museum Services Coordinator. "The work they did is amazing."

Loukas Deimezis, who supervised the chandelier’s restoration and installation on March 26, was pleased to see the looks of amazement and the audible ‘ahs’ as the light radiated from the crystal chandelier.

"You hear all these ‘Wows’ when they see it. This is the best part of the job," said Deimezis, owner of Appleton Antique Lighting which restores and sells antique lighting. "We know it’s going to stay there for another 100 years and be a showpiece."

The timing of the restoration couldn’t have been better. Just days after the chandelier was removed for cleaning and repair, New Line Cinema approached the Wayside Inn and signed a contract to film a scene in the Martha-Mary Chapel for "The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," a comedy starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner.

The chandelier was ready for a close-up on April 2 when the film crew arrived.

The trustees of the inn began raising funds for the restoration project in 2005 through ticket sales from the summertime Fresh Strawberry Concert series which is held in the chapel. Proceeds from prior years had benefited community organizations, but the restoration needs of the host venue were becoming hard to ignore.

The chandelier was broken in places and earlier repairs, as well as years of built-up grime, made the crystals dull. The metal components of the fixture had turned green from a zealous cleaning with an ammonia-based cleaner.

"It was really an eyesore," said LeBlanc. "You never got the full effect of the crystals because it was so dusty."

Henry Ford had the Martha-Mary Chapel built in 1940 and may have personally selected the chandelier for the chapel he named for his mother Mary Ford and mother-in-law Martha Bryant. One of six similar chapels, four in Michigan and one in Georgia, all named Martha-Mary, the Sudbury chapel is the only one to still have its original chandelier.

"So many historical records were lost in the fire at the Wayside Inn in 1955 that we don’t have many records for the chapel," said Lily Gordon, a trustee of the Wayside Inn which is a Massachusetts Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was Gordon who recommended Appleton Antique Lighting for the chapel chandelier restoration after witnessing an antique lighting project the company did at the Goodnow Library.

There are usually markings on the metal parts of a fixture that indicate its maker, but the Sudbury chandelier holds no clues.

"It looks like an old English or Czechoslovakian chandelier to me, but it’s difficult to distinguish the origin if there are no markings," said Deimezis.

The chandelier is about 32 inches in diameter and about 42 inches long, and has eight arms that once held candles.

"I would guess it is from the turn of the 18th to 19th century," said Deimezis. "It’s wonderful crystal. You can see how clear the crystal is and how fine the cut, things that today are very difficult to find."

The chandelier was completely dismantled, cleaned and repaired. The metal was re-silver-plated and the wiring brought up to code.

"Through the years people change pieces and re-do the antique chandeliers completely wrong, and a lot of the pieces get broken," said Deimezis. "Most of the Martha-Mary chandelier was original, so there were very few new pieces we had to add."

The price of the restoration was about $4,200.

"It really wasn’t so much restored as it was conserved," said Le Blanc. "It was beautifully and lovingly done and it is an amazing piece of art. It has to be seen - the way the crystal refracts and amplifies the light - to be appreciated."