by Chuck Seaver, South Lake Tablet

The Clermont Historic Village, 490 West Avenue, was home to wedding vows and the addition of two pieces of history on Sunday, June 9th. The old schoolhouse bell rang in wedding chime style for Nicole Difinizio and Danny Simpson as they united with marriage vows officiated by Katherine Imundi. The ceremony was performed in the Grace Chapel located on the grounds of the Clermont Historic Village (CHV). Grace Chapel, built in the spring of 2022, is a downsized replica of Clermont’s original Baptist Church that was built in 1888.

The church, which was located at the corner of 5th Street and Montrose Street, was constructed at a cost of approximately $650. The church was named Grace Baptist by the original five members of the church. Most of the early pastors were nicknamed “circuit riders” as they lived outside of the community and traveled to Clermont by horseback or pony cart once or twice a month to hold services.

Danny and Nicole, who are frequent visitors to CHV, wanted to add their own piece of history to the chapel by donating a solid wooden cross to the chapel’s interior. The cross, which stands at approximately fourteen feet tall, has a rustic touch and fits well into the wooden framed and floored structure.  The cross was utilized for the couple’s wedding and will remain in the chapel as a permanent fixture.


As a special gift to the newlyweds, representatives of CHV went to work on locating an organ player who could play an antique pump organ. As wedding fate would have it, the search did not take long or go far. Hugh Dial, an organ player for the St. Matthias Episcopal Church of Clermont, was recommended by locals. Mr. Dial, who has played pianos and organs for most of his life, was the perfect fit for the vintage organ that had not been played since it was brought to its new home in the Spring of 2024. “It may need a little tuning, but it is a beautiful instrument and plays well,” says Dial.  

The organ, believed to have been built in the early 1900’s by the Shipman Organ Company, was a recent gift to the CHV by a local family.  The Shipman Organ Company, founded in 1905, was located in High Point, North Carolina. The company operated as the High Point Piano & Organ Company from 1905 until a fire destroyed the factory in 1911. A new 50,000 square foot factory was built on the same site and the business continued as the Shipman Organ Company. Records indicate that at the peak of the factory’s existence, the company produced 700 organs per month or 8,400 organs per year. Shipman Organ Company declared that it was the only known pump organ company located in the south or below the Old Mason Dixon Line that was ever successful. Most of the South’s manufacturing capability was destroyed as a result of the Civil War. The business continued through 1924 when the Piedmont Manufacturing Company succeeded it.

The organ’s history can be dated back to around 1910-1920 when it was played in a small church by the donator’s grandmother.  The organ was eventually retired from church use but after a thorough reconditioning, the organ was believed to have been donated to the grandmother. The organ remained in the family and was a focal point of Janet Thomas’ home for decades. Janet was a loyal and dedicated supporter of the Clermont Historical Village for years. After much discussion, the Thomas family decided to donate the antique organ to the CHV where not only Janet’s name would be remembered but the organ can continue to show off its beautiful tone and incredible handcrafted woodwork designs.

The newlywed couple plan to spend a short honeymoon at Walt Disney World this weekend with future plans of an extended honeymoon later this year in the Caribbean. In a fun way, something new, something old and something borrowed could not have fit any better than it did this weekend at the Clermont Historic Village.


Visit for a full listing of historical artifacts, structures and wedding chapel information.

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