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In the late 1800's, the summer population of the Lake Sunapee area grew rapidly as visitors from New England and beyond flocked to the recently built grand hotels and lakefront cottages for extended summer vacations. Many visitors longed for their traditional Episcopal church and created a $500 Fund to plan construction of St. James Episcopal Church. In the fall of 1897, it was agreed to build the church "to the extent of the funds on hand" which was then about $1000. The church was designed by Rev. J.G. Wood of Winthrop, Massachusetts, a summer resident of Burkehaven. A contract was made with S.J. Bugbee, a local carpenter and stone mason then in his 70s, who - within a year - almost singlehandedly built the beautiful chapel which was completed by 1898.
The first service was held in August 1898 and the church was consecrated by the Bishop of New Hampshire W.W. Niles in 1900. In 1919 an Estey reed organ was added to the chapel and continues as a means to provide music accompaniment for services to this day.
From its founding, Lake Sunapee region visitors were drawn to St. James to hear stimulating sermons by visiting clergy vacationing in the area. Such vacations were made possible by the advent of railroad access to the lake and steamboat travel from the rail station to the grand hotels and cottages.
In 1922, an opportunity presented itself for the church to purchase a house on Lake Sunapee, directly across the street from the church. Once again a fund was created by the parishioners who purchased the cottage for $4,000 completely furnished. This permitted St. James to attract a broad group of distinguished clergy by offering two weeks residence for their families on beautiful Lake Sunapee.
The rectory, now well over 100 years old, is maintained as a classic and treasured example of lakefront cottages built by families that spent the entire summer enjoying the Lake Sunapee area.