New England
Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel sanctuary

Just months after architect Duncan Stroik won a Palladio Award for his work on Thomas Aquinas College’s California chapel, the architects who redesigned the building’s New England counterpart have claimed a coveted prize of their own.

The Institute for Classical Architecture and Art (ICAA) has awarded a 2022 Bulfinch Award to alumnus architect Anthony Grumbine (’00) and his colleagues at Harrison Design for their renovation of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel on the Northfield, Massachusetts, campus. The award, given in the category of Ecclesiastic Design, will be presented at an October 29 celebration at the Harvard Club in Boston.

For 20 years the ICAA has carried out its mission of promoting “the appreciation and practice of traditional architecture and its allied arts.” Its Bulfinch Awards, “named for Boston architect Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844), America’s first native-born architect,” advance that mission in the New England region, where the erstwhile Sage Chapel has stood since 1909.

The College took ownership of its East Coast campus, which formerly belonged to a nondenominational preparatory school, in 2017. Shortly thereafter, it contracted Harrison Design to transform the building for Catholic worship. Mr. Grumbine and colleague Nic Charbonneau were thrilled to take up the challenge of breathing new life into a beautiful neo-Gothic building, while also preserving its elegance and heritage. “It was like a fireworks show,” explains Mr. Grumbine. “The main show was already there. We just had to add the grand finale.”

Renovations for the Chapel included the installation of a tabernacle, kneelers, a central aisle for liturgical processions, confessionals, a permanent altar and altar rail, Stations of the Cross, and a high altar and reredos. With the help of John Canning & Co., Mr. Grumbine and Mr. Charbonneau’s vision came to life in vivid color and detail. “Canning did a magnificent job with the interior artwork, stenciling, and color selection,” says Mr. Charbonneau. “The colors really help to unify the entire space.”

In addition to its stylistic fidelity, a deeper continuity pervades the fully renovated chapel. Both Mr. Grumbine and Mr. Charbonneau studied at the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture under Mr. Stroik, who designed Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel on the California campus. These former students, while faithful to Sage Chapel’s vernacular, sprinkled visual echoes of Mr. Stroik’s design for California throughout their renovation design for New England. “The altar gates, for example, are similar,” notes Mr. Grumbine. “In New England, they’re a Gothic play on the California chapel’s gates, which have an alpha and omega.”

Both architects are pleased with the final result. “There’s an order-in-exuberance to both chapels,” observes Mr. Grumbine. This shared exuberance, Mr. Charbonneau adds, is a testament to the College’s single-minded architectural patronage. “Thomas Aquinas College has a real clarity about what is central to the mission of the school: The Catholic faith.”

Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel altar gate