SULTAN, Wash. — A pint-sized project in Snohomish County is getting big-time support.
After decades of wear and tear, the iconic Wayside Chapel, which has stood as a beacon of hope and love since before the 1962 World's Fair, is finally undergoing a much-needed renovation as the result of a local teen's Eagle Scout Project.
State Representative Carolyn Eslick says it’s one of the most impressive Eagle Scout projects she’s ever seen.
“I tried to get something like this done for several years during the pandemic but every time we gained momentum things fell through, Eslick said. "It took this young man and this group of volunteers to make it happen.”
Thanks to the remarkable efforts of an ambitious Eagle Scout, the chapel's dilapidated interiors are being transformed, bringing new life to this cherished landmark.
Nestled between Monroe and Sultan, the Wayside Chapel has served as a symbol of unity and spiritual rest for generations of visitors. Its reach is certainly bigger than its frame.
“It’s just under 12 foot-by-8 foot, I believe, so you can get about 8 people in there!” said Curtis Kimble of Herc Rentals.
He was simultaneously fundraising for the chapel online when Eagle Scout Michael Durkee was organizing volunteers to spruce up the 60-year-old chapel, dedicated in October of 1962 as Seattle was hosting the Worlds Fair.
The humble facade and welcoming atmosphere have touched countless lives. It’s a spot to rest, to worship and even to be married.
Over time, the chapel began to show signs of aging, with fading pews, worn-out flooring, and an aging electrical system that posed safety concerns. Between Durkee and Kimble, everything from the flooring to the gutters is being donated by community partners and a GoFundMe added just enough contributions to handle the new electrical needs.
The restoration is actually just the latest from the Durkee family. Three generations were on hand, including Durkee's grandfather Jeff Forbes and his uncle, Robert, who led a restoration of the chapel 15 years ago. The latest effort discovered a mistaken diagnosis of a sinking foundation.
“It wasn’t sinking, it was tree roots that were lifting one side up so we poured a new foundation and are moving it over a few feet,” said Durkee.
“We are very thankful today to see all of these volunteers come together to protect and breathe new life into a spot that means so much to so many people for decades,” said Gerrit Vanderwerff, of New Hope Church.
He is personally relishing the pews and pulpit to match the new paint schemes. Not to mention the new steeple, cross and signage that will all reappear in vintage condition soon.
As the renovation project enters its final stages, volunteers have been working ambitiously to bring the chapel back to its former glory.
“We hear there might even be a wedding stopping in this weekend,” said Kimble. He says the capacity of “seven people” typically leads to guests “enjoying the parking lot.”
The revitalized space is expected to rekindle the chapel's role as a sanctuary for spiritual reflection, as well as continue to serve as a little landmark that holds big sentimental value for travelers.
The group hopes to have all of the new materials installed by June, the most popular month for weddings. You can visit the completely free, always open, Wayside Chapel just off Highway 2 between the city of Monroe and Sultan.