How did an 80-year-old Russian chapel with stunning iconography inside wind up at a southern Anne Arundel County marina?
And who was Princess Wolkonsky, who built the chapel and adorned its interior after fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution?
It wasn't entirely clear on Halloween afternoon with dark clouds and winds blowing light rain through the skies whether answers to those questions would be known.
But under sunlight finally, in a field across from Herrington Harbour Marina in Tracys Landing, some 50 people learned all from Carol McCabe Booker, author of the newly published Cove Point on the Chesapeake — The Beacon, the Bay and the Dream.
Booker, a veteran journalist and lawyer who lives in Cove Point, described her book's "fairy tale" story of the aristocratic young women who became Princess Wolkonsky after marrying the strategist for Tsar Nicholas II.
You may recall that it did not end well for the tsar (killed by Bolsheviks after abdicating the throne). But the princess, divorced from her man and the monarchy, landed in Washington D.C. with her new husband, a German newsman.
Booker told how the princess, known now as Natalie Scheffer, missing her Russian Orthodox roots, oversaw Capt. John Lusby's construction in 1940 of an intimate but stately chapel at Cove Point, where she and her family and other Russian emigres gathered. Booker noted the rumor of a Russian safe house later on as locals became aware of an influx of Russians.
Viktoria Eremeva Ringhausen, of Russian heritage (pictured left), who spoke briefly to the gathering, described a near-mystical experience when she discovered the chapel more than a decade ago. The chapel features ornate and largely well-preserved icons featuring Christ on the throne and mural-sized images of saints on its walls.
People who came to hear Booker's stories of the princess along with tales of Cove Point developers and scoundrels over the years got a close-up look at the intricate art that the princess, long obsessed by Russian religious icons, painted herself.
After Scheffer's death. the chapel was donated to the Calvert County Historical Society with the provison that it be maintained. It later went into the keeping of a preservationist, then to Herrington Harbour North.
Booker and New Bay Books, which sponsored the gathering, thanked marina owner Steuart Chaney, who spearheaded modern preservation efforts, and Herrington Harbour North operator Hamilton Chaney, who enabled the gathering and worked with people in the community on its upkeep.
New Bay Books publisher Sandra Olivetti Martin at with Sheltie pup, who turned out at the Russian chapel event with owner Sandra Worthington.