Chapel Rehabilitation

History of the Chapel

Few are aware that, in 1867, Middletown's Frances Russell donated the Gothic Revival Chapel in memory of her late husband Samuel Russell. Samuel Russell was an American Entrepreneur and Trader who founded Russell & Company in Canton, China. While he was in China, Samuel's first wife Mary died, leaving their sons, George and John Russell. Mary's sister, Frances Osborne, cared for the children for several years until their father's return. When he returned to Middletown, Samuel married Frances. Later, the family increased when Samuel and Frances were blessed with a son, Samuel Wadsworth Russell.

For nearly a century, the Russell Chapel was used for funerals. Constructed of Portland Brownstone and embellished with small brownstone carvings, the Chapel notably houses its original Meneely Bell, forged in Troy, New York in 1868. Its interior is adorned with notable stained glass windows and elegant woodwork begging to be refurbished.

From the present to the past, Indian Hill Cemetery provides families with the most compassionate care at a time when it is needed most. You are very welcome to visit these beautiful grounds and to see the Russell Chapel exterior during daylight hours.

Chapel Rehabilitation

On the southwest hill of Indian Hill Cemetery in Middletown, Connecticut, stands a beautiful and architecturally-distinctive brownstone chapel that desperately needs your help. For nearly 150 years, its stately presence has enhanced this important cemetery, recently listed on the Connecticut Register of Historic Places. A witness to more than half of our nation's history, the Chapel has reached a dangerous structural tipping point that will push it into extinction.

We invite you to join us in being a part of the vitally important historic preservation of Middletown's celebrated past with a generous donation to the Russell Chapel Rehabilitation Fund. Memorial gifts and multi-year pledges are welcome, as are designated gifts.

Continue reading to learn more about the rehabilitation project and the Chapel's rich history.

Rehabilitation Project

In 2012, earnest discussion about the deterioration of the Chapel began. The Indian Hill Cemetery Trustees engaged an expert on historic preservation who recommended that an engineering study be done. A matching grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation funded such a study. It demonstrated that the Chapel was deteriorating rapidly and that rehabilitation needed to begin very soon.

In 2014, a matching grant from the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office was awarded to begin Phase I of the rehabilitation of the Chapel at Indian Hill. A total of $200,000 is needed to completely rehabilitate this lovely, historic structure – its windows, its interior embellishments, and its soul.

We have retained Kronenberger & Sons Restoration to restore the interior of the chapel. Work is progressing but, as you might imagine, a structure dating to 1860 is apt to provide some unexpected surprises. The most recent is the need to completely rewire and recondition the chandelier. This represents an unexpected expense but a necessary one nonetheless.

Click to enlarge photos

Today, Indian Hill Cemetery, with its magnificent monuments, mausoleums, family plots, and trees of history, is a peaceful resting place for many, as well as a place of refuge for hundreds of walkers, joggers, filmmakers, photographers, and the like, who enjoy the park-like setting. A rehabilitated Russell Chapel will add to this living tableau by contributing a lovely and sheltered setting for funeral services and other events.