Tall, majestic, Romanesque, grey and red stone bursting with history and color~

If you are looking for an historic and strikingly, beautiful chapel go to 17 Nelson Street in Auburn, New York, and you will find a wonderful building of gray limestone and red sandstone that looks as though it was plucked from Rome.

It was built in 1892 and served as a chapel for the seminary. The Welch Memorial Building which adjoins the chapel has many classrooms which were later used as a college, and presently are used as a community center for many agencies.

Fortunately, a group of individuals from Auburn fought to preserve the structure. This is one of those happy ending stories where the wrecking ball was sent away and the majestic spiritual icon stands. The Willard Memorial Chapel is now on the State and National Register of Historic Places.

As you approach the grounds you begin to feel the history. You know that you are on sacred land. The colorful building owns the space. No matter the season, it charms the scenery. In winter it’s warm and inviting. In summer it harmonizes with the dark greens of the landscape and it’s incredibly stunning.

Concert series are held year round. And the weddings there are enchanting. The chapel is small and intimate, the oak woodwork exquisite, and the stained glass windows are masterpieces by Tiffany. I’ve attended a few weddings in the chapel. To see details for planning your wedding there just click on weddings

I remember going to hear The Colgate 13 a cappella group on a winter day. It was snowing and blustery on my way there; but once inside the warm oaken interior, the sun came out. As I sat in the wooden pews under the stained glass chandeliers hanging by thick gold chains, the sun shone through the side windows. I was transfixed by the brilliant and stunning artwork. The voices of the chorus swirled around the room, dancing on the walls, and bouncing off the colored glass.

It’s so easy to meditate when you sit in the cozy yet magnificent interior. You can close your eyes and imagine the chants from a century ago.

Every inch of this chapel is artistic: from the tiny (maybe ½ inch square) inlaid glass mosaic tiled floor, to the stenciled ceilings. The tall pipes leading skyward from the 19th century organ were originally stenciled, later painted, but the resilient stencil is beginning to shine through the layer of paint. The pulpit is inlaid with gems, metals and glass. The pews have deep burgundy velvet cushions. The chandeliers are fascinating with their glass uranium prisms (which actually glow under black lights.)

I was there today and sat in on a tour (which is held every hour T-F from 10 a.m.--3 PM). A young mother and her two children were eager to learn about the chapel. I enjoyed the five-year-old boy’s remarks:

  • “All those pipes, I like them the best.”
  • “And those stained glasses. That’s what I love.”
  • “I like the greens.”
  • “And I could build all this in one day, starting at one minute, ending at 2 o’clock.”

You just have to smile at a youngster’s concept of time.

On the way out of the chapel the young boy mentioned to the docent giving us the tour, “And next we’re going to see a train under the ground!”

His mother corrected him, “It’s not an actual train underground; it’s a passage for people to travel.”

It feels good to see young children showing enthusiasm for the unique touches of Tiffany. I almost wanted to follow him, his mother, and sister, to hear his comments when he got to the Harriet Tubman Home…

For more information about this authentic and artistic chapel just click here: Willard Memorial Chapel

Bobbie Panek lives in Central NY. She’s a poet, writer and wanderlust. You can read more about her at Bobbiepanek.com