Synagogue offers historic building in Connecticut for $1

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Deborah Chapel was named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2022 list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Buildings.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Congregation Beth Israel has put a historic building in Hartford up for sale as news of its possible demolition spreads.

The congregation is selling the Deborah Chapel, which is in Beth Israel Cemetery in Frog Hollow, for $1, on the condition that the buyer “remove the structure from its current location.”

“We’ve made this offer in the past, but never received a response,” said Scott Lewis, chairman of the Beth Israel Cemetery Committee. “Given the recent interest in the building, we thought it would be a good time to renew our offer.”

This offer was made 10 years ago, years before applying for a permit to demolish the building in 2018.

RELATED: Calls to Save Hartford’s Deborah Chapel Continue as Synagogue Shares Plans for Vacant Historic Building

There has been a lot of back and forth between the city of Hartford and the synagogue with the request for demolition, including a court case of Beth Israel when their initial request to demolish the building was denied, as well as a call from the Hartford Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) when the judge reconsidered the lawsuit and reversed the decision to deny the demonstration request.

The appeal, filed in March 2021, is still ongoing, because a movement from the HPC for an extension has been granted, and “until the court renders its decision,” the synagogue will keep the $1 offer open.

“These conversations usually end very quickly because moving a building in a northeast town is very logistically difficult and prohibitively expensive,” said Carey Shea, a resident of Frog Hollow and founder of the group Friends of Zion Hill Cemetery.

The investment exceeds $1. The building would need new property to sit on, as well as a new foundation and renovations, Shea added.

The two-and-a-half-story building was built in the mid-1800s and occupied by the Hartford Ladies’ Deborah Society, a female helper of Jewish women who immigrated from Germany and found a community in Hartford. One of their main tasks was to prepare the bodies for burial.

RELATED: Hartford Chapel Facing Demolition Placed on List of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places

The building has been vacant for decades as burial preparations are now done in funeral homes. The city deeded the property to the synagogue centuries ago, and that deed requires that the property be used only for cemetery purposes, according to the synagogue.

It is possible to request the removal of the restriction of the act through the municipal council if necessary; it is not clear if there has been an attempt to remove this deed restriction in recent years.

Whether the building is demolished or moved by the new owner or the current owner, Beth Israel intends to reserve this part of the property for graves when members of their congregation may need it.

“Beth Israel Cemetery still has plenty of land available for burials and most congregants seem to prefer burial in the larger and newer Beth Israel Cemetery in Avon,” Shea said. In the meantime, we hope they will continue to consider alternatives to demolition.”

“The city believes that the best place for this historic building to be preserved and renovated is where it historically stood, and the city continues to pursue a call to prevent the demolition of this historic structure,” Howard said. Rifkin of Hartford Corporate Counsel.

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In early May, city officials and local historic preservation advocates called on Beth Israel to reconsider demolishing the building and the history it holds. The Deborah Chapel was also named after the National Trust for Historic PreservationThe 2022 list of America’s most endangered historic buildings.

This $1 offer has been extended to the City of Hartford, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and community members. Anyone interested in purchasing Deborah Chapel for $1 and removing it from the property should contact Tracy Mozingo, Executive Director of Congregation Beth Israel.

It is unclear how long the buyer would have to remove the building from the property; “Obviously this is something we will have to work out with any potential buyer,” the congregation told FOX61 on Tuesday.

Leah Myers is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at [email protected]

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