50 years worth of memories fill the Chapel in the Hills

Eye on KELOLAND

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — One of South Dakota’s hidden treasures, the Chapel in the Hills, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Many couples who were married there celebrated the anniversary by renewing their vows.

This chapel is an exact replica of the Borgund Stavkirke in Norway, which is almost a thousand years old. The Chapel in the Hills is 50 years old now and in those 50 years it’s seen a lot of things.

“I’ve worked with Stavkirke since it was first constructed and I did some of the early services and the evening, the vesper services as we called them and I also substituted for, they had a full-time pastor at that time and I’d come up and do certain weddings and events like that,” Pastor Herb Clevelend said.

Pastor Herb Cleveland is 89 years old and has been a certified pastor for 60 years. He still remembers the first wedding he conducted at the Chapel.

“It was filled with a lot of memories of the old country because the Chapel in the Hills is definitely taken out of Norway. And the stairway here, like where we are standing, it was rather rugged as opposed to everything finished but the rough rock and steps and everything back then, it was just an awesome experience to conduct a service inside a Stavkirke,” Pastor Cleveland said.

Weddings were not only an awesome experience for Pastor Herb, but also for the couples themselves.

Randy and Patsy Schmidt got married at the Chapel in mid-September of 1973.

“On the day of our wedding it was a day we had looked forward to for quite a while. We had planned this and it was such a beautiful spot and every time we came out here, it was so nice and the weather was nice,” Randy Schmidt said.

“But the day we got married, it snowed,” Patsy Schmidt said.

That day, the couple along with 110 of their closest friends and family members filled the pews. The Chapel is only supposed to fit 90.

“Kind of chaotic of course, you can’t get ready here so I had to put my dress on ahead of time and be transported across town with my dress on. They put the veil on after I got here,” Patsy said.

“I was up here that afternoon, we were married at 3 o’clock and I was waiting for her standing over there and watching down here and here came this lady in a long full white dress, my heart skipped a beat, maybe two,” Randy said.

Randy and Patsy renewed their vows this year at the 50th anniversary celebration surrounded by many others who were married at the Chapel.

“We have many many couples, some are good friends of ours and family friends that chose to be married out here and what the service consisted of was thinking back to the time that they were married and the remembering the vows and the blessing of the rings and placing them on and just renewing that whole sanctification of the gift of becoming husband and wife,” Pastor Herb Cleveland said.

Despite the passage of time, the Schmidts and Pastor Herb say some of the feelings and memories with the Chapel stay with them.

“The sense of quietness and awe has remained the same from the very beginning and it still is that way. You can come here after being with throngs of people and it’s always serenity here even when we had the big anniversary,” Pastor Herb Cleveland said.

“Coming back to visit the Chapel is always a flood of memories, that day so many of our grandparents and parents were all here and many of those people are gone now so it’s always that the pictures that go through your mind is like going through an old photograph book,” Randy said.

“‘I froze at your wedding’ they still say that, 46 years later, ‘I froze at your wedding’,” Patsy said.

One of the many memories linked to this Chapel in the Hills.

The Chapel in the Hills has many services and events along with weddings. If you would like to check out dates and times of those events or find information on the history of the Chapel, we’ve provided links here.

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