A historic funeral chapel in Hartford is scheduled for demolition, after failed litigation to save it
Congregation Beth Israel, a West Hartford synagogue, said it's ready to tear down the historic funeral chapel they own, after much protest from Connecticut state and city leaders as well as some members of the synagogue.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong took on the case to save the chapel back in March under the state's statute to protect against unreasonable destruction of historic buildings. But the AG's office said, in July, the federal National Park Service determined the Deborah Chapel was never actually listed as a historic landmark in the Frog Hollow district it’s located in.
The AG's office said this means they no longer have jurisdiction in the matter and had to let go of the case.
Carey Shea, an advocate for saving the chapel, said she's horrified.
“Absolutely no one benefits from this. The Jewish people suffer, Jewish history suffers, our neighborhood suffers. Even the congregation...I mean they own something of value,” Shea said.
The Congregation now has the ability to demolish the building.
Since the AG’s office had to back out of the case, congregant Mark Slitt, an active member of Congregation Beth Israel since 2008, said the chapel's Jewish history is important and should be preserved.
“The National Trust on Historic Preservation has called this one of the ten most endangered historic buildings in the country right now,” Slitt said. “So, as an ordinary citizen interested in historic preservation, I think the right thing to do is to preserve the building.”
Slitt made a case to move the building or even put the idea of demolition or preservation up to the congregants at a board of trustees meeting last week, but the synagogue leaders did not approve.
"I understand the desire to move it off the synagogue's cemetery property. That's what I was advocating for and unfortunately, they see otherwise,” Slitt said. “And so to me... that's very disappointing."
The Hartford City Council passed a resolution last week asking the congregation to reconsider demolition and to work with the city to save the chapel.
The congregation has yet to respond.