The Willard Memorial Chapel and adjoining Welch Memorial Building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is all that remains of the original Auburn Theological Seminary campus which was established in 1818. The seminary was home to the generations of Presbyterian scholars, missionaries an ministers and became an international center for students of religious education.
At one time the seminary occupied over 10 acres of land and owned man buildings including a five story dormitory, a library with museum, and a printing press. In 1939, the Auburn Theological Seminary relocated to New York City where it exists today as an educational and research theological center.
The Chapel complex, completed in 1894, was designed by A.J. Warner of Rochester. The distinctive gray limestone and red sandstone building is a fine example of Romanesque Revival Architecture. The Chapel interior was designed and hand-crafted by the Tiffany Glass Decorating Company. It was given by the daughters of Dr. Sylvester and Jane Frances Case Willard in memory of their parents. The Welch building containing six large classrooms was the bequest of former professor, R.B. Welch.
Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) is well known for the beautiful ornamental lamps and stained glass windows which have become synonymous with his name. Tiffany was also accomplished in many other areas of artistry and design including painting, art glass, mosaics, furniture, silver, jewelry, pottery and interior design.
Tiffany experts and appraisers agree that the Willard Chapel is an extremely rare example of Tiffany's work. "To my knowledge, the chapel is the only example of a complete Tiffany interior" states Harold Jaffe, of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Society. J. Alistair Duncan, Tiffany appraiser and author says "The value of the individual items in the Willard Chapel is base on the fact that they are part of a unique interior, one of significant importance within Tiffany's total work. Practically all of his other church interiors have been destroyed throughout the years, which make it especially important that the Willard Chapel be kept intact for the appreciation of both the public and art historians."
The Tiffany interior contains a nine paneled rose window depicting religious symbols and biblical figures, a three paneled stained glass window of "Christ Sustaining Peter on the Water" inspired from a painting by English artist, Frederick Shields, 14 opalescent nave windows, 9 leaded glass chandeliers, a large memorial mosaic bronze and gilt tablet signed by J.A. Holzer and personifying the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, mosaic floors, gold stenciled and jeweled pulpit, wainscoting, and gold stenciled furniture and ceiling.
In 1990, the community was successful in its campaign to save the Willard Memorial Chapel and Welch Memorial Building. Efforts to preserve and restore the complex continue.
Send comments or suggestions to:
Bernie Corcoran, Cayuga County Coordinator
Auburn, New York