Construction of the Chapel

A single flower is etched in the back of each of the chapel's 42 choir seats.

Architect James Gamble Rogers drew up initial plans for the chapel in December 1937. President Blunt announced Mrs. Harkness' gift at Commencement the following June.

Rogers wanted the chapel to blend well with the College's Gothic, Georgian and modern architecture. He also wanted the design to be in keeping with Connecticut's colonial heritage. His solution was a granite fa├žade with long, narrow windows and massive front doors flanked by two Ionic columns. The styles and details blend masterfully to create a dignified, simple building that Rogers described as "colonial Georgian."

The interior, with its wrought-iron chandeliers, stone floor, sturdy oak pews and horsehair cushions, reveals subtle and at times playful detail. Stalks of wheat, each drawn individually, wave in the panes of window glass. Fanciful designs embellish the trusses that traverse the vaulted ceiling. A radiant sunburst dominates the elaborate oak organ case behind the altar; at the top are two angels, their gilded horns blaring. A single flower is etched in the back of each of the 42 choir seats.

Initial plans called for a nonsectarian building with a weathervane on the steeple, stained glass windows featuring heraldic shields, and an engraving of the College motto over the front doors. The final design was far more religious: The steeple was topped with a cross, the windows portrayed scenes from the life of Christ, a large cross was hung from the organ case and the stone above the doors described Mrs. Harkness' interest in the spiritual life of students. It's not clear how the changes came to be made. But Mrs. Harkness was intimately involved in the details of the chapel's construction and undoubtedly approved them. She chose the color of the seat cushions (plum), rejected Rogers' wooden steeple in favor of stone, and approved the glass for the windows.

Contact Information:



Email Laurie McGrath,

Office of Religious and Spiritual Life
Harkness Chapel
Box 5203
New London, CT 06320-4196