In 1867, Middletown’s Frances Russell donated a Gothic Revival Chapel in memory of her late husband Samuel Russell. Samuel, an entrepreneur, and trader, was the owner and namesake of Wesleyan’s Russell House.

The architecturally distinctive brownstone Russell Chapel, which is listed on the Connecticut Register of Historic Places, sits atop the southwest hill on Indian Hill Cemetery and abuts Wesleyan University on Vine Street. Now, at 160 years old, the Chapel has reached a dangerous structural tipping point and rehabilitation is desperately needed.

“Indian Hill Cemetery is an integral part of our community”, said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “Kari, Mathilde, and I frequently take walks through the cemetery’s immaculate grounds, which offer pristine views of Middletown and sections of campus. I know several students and other employees who enjoy the grounds as much as we do, and the Russell Chapel is the iconic centerpiece”.

“In the late 1800s, many Wesleyan students included photographs of the Russell Chapel in their personalized yearbooks, and even today, Wesleyan film students use the Chapel and Indian Hill Cemetery for their projects,” Roth said.

Constructed of Portland brownstone and embellished with small brownstone carvings, the Russell Chapel notably houses its original Meneely Bell, forged in Troy, New York in 1868. Its interior is adorned with notable stain glass windows and elegant woodwork currently being rehabilitated.

In 2012, a matching grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation funded an engineering study on the property. In 2014, a second grant, a $200,000 matching grant from the State Historic Preservation Office, was awarded to begin Phase 1 of the restoration of the Chapel at Indian Hill. Basic restoration began in March 2015. Phase 2 began in 2020 to restore the interior of the Chapel.

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