For you devotees of the Preservation Alliance in 2014 we signaled an interest to move our office to the community in an effort to make historic preservation more accessible. (Please check out all of our Strategic Plan). After announcing our “ten most endangered” in February we were approached by the Congregation Beth Israel with a truly exciting offer to take their Deborah Chapel, boarded and abandoned, in Zion Cemetery. This building is an historic property built in 1873 to serve as a site for burial celebrations in one of Hartford’s most prominent Jewish cemeteries. It has been difficult for the Congregation to maintain the building which is no longer used as a chapel. It has been subjected to the many indignities of vandalism. We took a look and determined that if The Preservation Alliance is to walk the walk this chapel is surely filled with promise as a rehabilitation project.
One imagines the architecture is in keeping with the period of late-19th Century. Its bones are sound and have the potential to make a wonderful headquarter for us. We envision the ground floor chapel becoming a welcoming public space in which to hold community meetings. The second and third floors can easily convert to office and meeting space for the staff.
Yet most exciting is the potential for our project to become a renovation classroom as we tackle the comprehensive effort to rehabilitate a unique historic structure in Frog Hollow. Demonstrations of planning/design, adaptive reuse, budgeting, finance, demolition, insulation, sheet rocking and decoration all come into play. We often talk of historic preservation as a green strategy and a reuse of the Deborah Chapel can help to educate the community about the cost benefit of saving buildings. We will pursue a strategy of making the property energy-efficient and hope to explore solar energy in our plans to create a small energy footprint. All the while we will work to showcase how cost-effective renovation can be realized.
At our last meeting, the HPA Board of Directors agreed to issue a letter of interest to the Congregation Beth Israel, a good faith effort, to begin the work of our due diligence. We want to assemble a budget and ultimately determine how to finance the project. All of this process will be reported here and on our website. We know that historic preservation matters but now we take up the challenge to prove how! Please join us in monitoring our progress as we endeavor to bring back the Deborah Chapel to a vibrancy for which it was built and dedicated.