Clarence “Walt” Withey first came to Shadow Lawn, the palatial estate that Monmouth now calls home, in 1933 when then-owner Hubert T. Parson was having trouble with his brood of exotic birds.
Parson’s collection of poultry and game birds included 350 turkeys suffering from a life-threatening disease, so he called upon Withey— considered an authority on poultry pathology—to help.
After successfully curing the flock, Withey continued to work for Parson through the height of the Great Depression. He was only forced to leave in 1938, when the estate was handed over to the borough of West Long Branch for nonpayment of taxes.
More than a decade later, in 1954, Withey was asked by the founder and president of Monmouth Junior College (MJC), Edward G. Schlaefer, to accept the position of bursar at the junior college.
At the time, MJC was located at Long Branch Senior High School, but within two years of Withey’s appointment, MJC gained full college status and moved its headquarters to its current location, on the grounds of the former Shadow Lawn estate.
It was then that Withey took up restoring the room that the Parsons had designated as “the English lounge.” Located on the lower level of Wilson Hall, the lounge had been incorporated into the original building plans next to the bowling alley.
A portion of the room’s contents reportedly had origins as part of an early 16th-century Tudor abbey. On a trip to Europe with his wife Maysie, Parson had parts of an English chapel—including wooden paneling, four original church stalls fitted with seats, and original stained glass windows set in Gothic arched frames—disassembled and shipped to the States.
When the estate was sold and later purchased by the college, the paneling had been removed and the forgotten lounge had mostly functioned as a storage unit until Withey stepped in.
Withey had the paneling reinstalled, added in new paneling of similar style and color, and purchased nine pews from the Methodist Church in Bay Head. The pulpit was donated by the Long Branch Presbyterian Church and the pulpit chairs came from the Methodist Church in Navesink, a section of Middletown.
On Nov. 22, 1969, the chapel was dedicated as the C.W. Withey Chapel in honor of the man who restored it to its original use.
Today the chapel is used for intimate gatherings, from poetry readings to small wedding ceremonies, and for those in need, it provides a place of quiet contemplation.