The Pennsylvania Chautauqua in Mount Gretna is seeking to raise funds to restore wood carvings that belonged to two well-known members of the town’s musical and cultural community.

Peter Hewitt, who worked in the music publishing business, and Walter McAnney, who worked as an organist, moved to the town together in 1996. They commissioned the carvings from chainsaw sculptor Dennis Beach after their arrival.

The two carvings, which depict angels and musical instruments, were carved directly out of existing tree trunks on Hewitt and McAnney’s shared property.

McAnney passed away in 2020 and Hewitt in 2021. The Chautauqua is now hoping to raise $2,000 in total to get the carvings restored.

“Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney were Chautauqua residents, and Peter’s daughters Gillian and Anne decided that before they sold the house, they wanted to have the statues moved to a safe place,” explained Susan Hostetter, secretary of the Chautauqua Foundation and chair of the Summer Programs Committee.

The Chautauqua is a culture- and education-focused organization that has made its Pennsylvania headquarters in Mount Gretna since 1892; the name also refers to a neighborhood within Mount Gretna built on Chautauqua-owned land.

“We’ve collected $700 to date, and we’d like to raise $1,300 more,” Hostetter said.

Restoration work is being completed by Peter Joseph Design, and the Chautauqua hopes to complete fundraising by mid-July.

The restoration work will involve treating and fixing the wood, which has remained outside in the elements for over two decades. In that time, carver Beach has gone on to win the Husky Cup chainsaw carving world championship twice.

Hewitt and McAnney were known for hosting summertime organ concerts in their Gretna home, inviting the public to see weekly performances in their living room. Chairs would be set up throughout the summer and dozens of attendees would visit their home to hear an organist perform on McAnney’s 12-speaker, 4-manual Allen organ. The organ is now installed at the Gretna United Methodist Church.

Several of the concerts featured young organists who have since made notable careers in the music industry, including Paul Jacobs, who has been described by the Economist as “America’s leading organ performer.” Jacobs played in the Hewitt/McAnney residence while studying at the Curtis Institute of Music and reappeared for a Gretna Music series of concerts in 2017 held in honor of the two music lovers.

Their wood carvings may now serve as a memorial for the two and as a symbol of Mount Gretna’s dedication to the arts. The final location of the carvings after restoration is still being determined, though Hostetter said that it “would be somewhere most likely on the Chautauqua grounds,” where the organization can oversee their upkeep.

“To me they’re works of art,” said Hostetter. “They symbolize another important aspect of the way Mount Gretna values the arts.“

Those interested in learning more about the carvings or contributing to the restoration are encouraged to contact the Chautauqua at [email protected].

Full Disclosure: Joshua Groh worked for the Pennsylvania Chautauqua during the summer of 2021.

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Joshua Groh

Josh is a Cornwall native and freelancer with a love of local history and the outdoors.