Hidden gothic church open today

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 1999

Emerging from a canopy of live oak and moss, St. Mary’s Episcopal Chapel seems otherworldly — the gothic structure stands in contrast to its wild surroundings.

&uot;I was expecting a little white clapboard house,&uot; said Lil Lovette, who has been involved with a project to open the chapel to visitors this week.

Instead of a clapboard house, a stucco-covered brick building with spires and shuttered, arched windows, sits cloaked in the woods.

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Kathy Moody, manager of the Laurel Hill Plantation on which the church stands, wants to open it to the public and will do so for the first time with an open house this weekend.

The chapel will be decorated for Christmas and open today, Sunday and Monday from 1 to 4 p.m. The church is located at 1054 Lower Woodville Road.

&uot;This is just a treasure,&uot; Lovette said. &uot;When I found out about it, I said, ‘Let’s get to work.’&uot;

Lovette, Terri Graham and Kay McWilliams put their creativity to work decorating the building.

The church, built in 1836, remains part of the Episcopal diocese and retains all of its features including gothic arched doorways, a black and white marble floor, a stained glass oriel window, and white marble statues.

&uot;To me it’s magical because of what it is and where it is,&uot; Graham said. &uot;It’s breathtaking to see something out in the woods like this … and nobody knows it’s here.&uot;

Pierce Butler of Gainesville, Fla., who owns the Laurel Hill Plantation, gave the land to the State of Mississippi as a conservation and preservation easement, protecting the property from any development.