HARTLEY—The Pleasant View Cemetery Chapel in Hartley continues to create pleasant memories for whoever visits it.
Nearly eight years ago, the city-owned building was on a path toward demolition and a piece of Hartley’s history would have become just that — history — if not for a committee of volunteers committed to preserving and restoring the structure.
“We were motivated because the city was going to tear it down,” said Hartley resident and committee member Betty Taylor, who has been spearheading the restoration project since it began.
The white chapel with brown doors and trim and gray shingles is a rare site among Iowa cemeteries and may be one of the last buildings of its kind remaining in the state. The 35-by-20-foot structure is an example of American Gothic architecture.
Many residents of the O’Brien County community of nearly 1,600 who have family members buried at Pleasant View Cemetery have wanted to make sure the quaint chapel is never demolished.
“It’s such a novelty to have this structure on a cemetery to begin with,” said committee member Annette Gebert of rural Hartley. “We just wanted to keep it.”
On March 20, 2012, the committee sponsored an open house at the chapel. More than 90 people attended, most of whom had never seen the inside of the building before.
At that time, the condition of the structure was deteriorating. The chapel’s shingles had curled, windows were broken and stucco was cracked. Bats had taken up residence in the eaves.
The building — which dates back to the early 1900s — had not been used for funerals in many decades and had become abandoned after being used mostly for storage for several years.
A $2,500 O’Brien County Community Foundation grant got the restoration project off the ground during the fall of 2012. The city of Hartley contributed about $8,500 to repair the structure’s roof and remove the bats.
The committee — which has held several fundraisers and accepted donations since the restoration project began — had the chapel reshingled, its stucco replaced, new gutters installed and eight windows restored to their original look with frosted panes.
Since the first improvements were made, the building’s interior and exterior have been repaired and painted, and a handrail was added along the structure’s outside front steps to make them safer.
The chapel also has been furnished with 10 oak church pews and several donated items, including a pump organ, bookcase, pulpit, communion table and hymn board.
In 2015, two wicker removal baskets were added to the building. A small one was donated, while the committee bought a larger one with money from various fundraisers.
The next year, several more items were donated to the structure, including new front doors, hymnals, a communion set, a baptismal font and two chairs made of walnut.
“We’re pleased with the way things have gone,” Taylor said.
Committee members would like to repaint the chapel’s floor this year and are working on repairing tombstones throughout the cemetery that are leaning.
They also would like to eventually get into the vault in the building’s basement and clean that up, but it has been closed off and filled in and will take some effort just to get access.
The committee has had many members over the years who have been active in restoring the structure, including Taylor and her husband, Orv; Gebert; Karen Howard; Kathy Luedke; Bryan Nelson; Ruth Newkirk and her son Loren; Jerry and Sybil Olson; LeRoy Raabe; and the late LaVon Andersen and Jean Ahrenstorff.
“People have been very, very generous in the community for helping us when we’ve needed help,” Gebert said.