Despite being damaged on its first attempt at delivery, Terry and Barbara Lake's gift to the Hockessin community is now in place
Terry and Barbara Lake’s present to the Hockessin Community came just in time for the holiday season – despite an unfortunate setback earlier this month.
On Thursday, the scale replica of the former St. John the Evangelist’s church (due the previous week but delayed when damaged in transit) arrived at the Lake’s Valley Road home on Thursday, and was officially unveiled to the public at a ceremony Friday morning.
The replica sits on a stone foundation in the center of the spot where the original church once stood until it was demolished in 1985.
The Lakes reside in the former parish house next door, which they have also worked to preserve as much as possible, having only added a screened in front porch to the original building.
Built by Ruben Beiler, of Lancaster County, Pa.-based Kinzer Woodworking, the replica is a scale model of the original church, before it was expanded over the years to accommodate its growing membership.
St. John’s was the third Catholic church in Hockessin, following Coffee Run and St. Patrick’s. The church was closed in 1964 with the opening of St Mary of the Assumption.
A historic marker was put in place by the Delaware State Archives in September 2015.
“I just wanted people to know what it looked like, you know?” said Terry Lake. “They slow down to read the marker, so I thought I’d put something there for them to see.”
The replica comes with clear vinyl stained glass windows illuminated from within that Barbara Lake said she picked due to the pattern’s similarity to the original windows.
“They were just panels of color, not like elaborate pictures,” she said. “I thought this was pretty close.”
Joined by former St. John’s parishioners and other community members, the Lakes saw the six-by-six-by-11-foot replica – complete with vinyl-covered “stained glass” windows and a working bell – receive a blessing by St. Mary’s pastor, Father Charles Dillingham.
“I think it is absolutely magnificent,” Dillingham said. “I thank the Lakes very much for having such a sense of history, loving our community, and loving our church. This is a thrill for St. Mary’s.”
Eleanor O’Neill, who said she was “one of the last, if not the last” couples to be married at St. John’s, was at a loss for words.
“It’s really just amazing,” she said. “It brings back memories.”
Toni Visich, who has been a member of the parish for over 40 years, emotionally recounted the importance St. John himself played in her late husband’s life, giving the replica some added personal significance.
“It brings tears to my eyes,” she said.
New Castle County Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick said she was impressed with how well Beiler recreated the original building just from pictures provided to him by the Lakes.
“If you look, it’s a perfect recreation,” she said, pointing to photos the Lakes had on display. “It is really amazing work.”
Terry Lake’s brother, Hockessin Historical Society president Joe Lake, was equally impressed with the replica’s craftsmanship.
“They shrunk it,” he joked. “I’ll bet the pews are tiny.”
The Lakes, who paid for the replica out of pocket, view the mini church as a gift to the community.
“Really, it was Terry’s project. He’s fully retired now, so who knows what he’ll do next,” Barbara said.
The replica and historic marker can be seen at 1150 Valley Road in Hockessin.