This summer Rye residents can watch the reconstruction of the historic clerestory as it rises above the roof of the Meeting House on Milton Road.
This summer Rye residents can watch the reconstruction of the historic clerestory as it rises above the roof of the Meeting House on Milton Road. The clerestory, a row of windows built atop the roofline, appears in historic photos of the building into the 1950s. The framing for the structure at roof level still exists.
Before its purchase by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1959, the Meeting House was known as Grace Chapel or Milton Chapel and affiliated with Christ’s Church in downtown Rye. A clerestory is a frequent element of church architecture and harks back to the building’s longtime use as a chapel. The windows of the clerestory provided abundant light from above.
When opened in summer, the clerestory windows also provided cooling before the use of air conditioning through the “chimney effect” — based on the fact that hot air rises. Today, we would call this a sustainable, passive system, because it does not consume electricity to cool the building.
“The clerestory is a marvelous example of how historic buildings often worked in an earth-friendly way,” said Anne Stillman, president of the Committee to Save the Bird Homestead, which operates the Meeting House. “Plus it is a striking architectural feature that reminds us of the building’s history as a chapel, along with the bell tower and the stained glass window.”
The building’s use is entirely secular now, as space for the Committee’s educational programs about coastal ecology, historic preservation, science, sustainability, and the legacy of the Bird family, who lived next door at the adjoining historic property. The Committee also holds concerts there.
Meeting House architects Walter Sedovic and Jill Gotthelf are leaders in linking historic preservation and sustainable practices. The clerestory restoration and the accompanying restoration of the main roof with cedar shingles are funded, in part, by a matching grant awarded to the Committee by New York State.