Historic building in Hartford threatened with demolition being offered for $1 – FOX61 Hartford

Posted By on June 2, 2022

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

HARTFORD, Conn. The Congregation Beth Israel has put a historic building in Hartfordup for sale, as news of its possible demolition makes its rounds.

The congregation is selling the Deborah Chapel, which sits in the Beth Israel cemetery in Frog Hollow, for $1, on the condition that the buyer "removes the structure from its current location."

We have made this offer in the past, but have never received any response, says Scott Lewis, Chair 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.

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

There has been much back and forth between the City of Hartford and the synagogue with the request to demolish, including alawsuit from Beth Israel when their initial request to demolish the building was denied, as well as anappeal from Hartford's Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) when the judge revisited the suit and reversed the decision to decline the demo request.

The appeal, filed in March 2021, is still in progress, as a motion from the HPC for an extension was granted, and "until the court issues its decision," the synagogue will keep the $1 offer open.

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

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

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

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

It's possible to request the removal of the deed's restriction through the City Council if need be; it's not clear if there was an attempt to remove that restriction from the property's deed in recent years.

Regardless of whether the building is demolished or wheeled out by the new or current owner, Beth Israel intends to reserve that part of the property for graves when they would eventually be needed by members of their congregation.

"Beth Israel Cemetery still has plenty of land available for burials and most of the Congregation members appear to prefer burial in the larger and newer Beth Israel cemetery in Avon," said Shea. In the meantime, we hope they continue to consider alternatives to demolition."

The City believes that the best place for this historic building to be preserved and renovated is in the location in which it has historically stood, and the City continues to pursue an appeal to prevent this historic structure from being demolished, said Howard Rifkin of Hartford's Corporation Counsel.

At the beginning of May, city officials and local historic preservation advocates called on Beth Israel to reconsider demolishing the building and the history that it holds. The Deborah Chapel was also named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2022 list of Most Endangered Historic Buildings in America.

This $1 offer was extended to the City of Hartford, the city's Historic Preservation Commission, and members of the community. Anyone interested in purchasing the Deborah Chapel for $1 and removing it from the property is asked to contact Tracy Mozingo, Congregation Beth Israels Executive Director.

It's not clear how much time the buyer would have to get the building off of the property;"Obviously that is something that we would have to work out with any prospective purchaser," The congregation told FOX61 on Tuesday.

Leah Myers is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached atlmyers@fox61.com

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Historic building in Hartford threatened with demolition being offered for $1 - FOX61 Hartford

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