A three-story burial chapel from the 1800s in Hartford is being sold for $1.
Congregation Beth Israel has been trying to knock it down for years and hopes the price will attract an eager buyer.
The 136-year-old Deborah Chapel in Beth Israel Cemetery was built by women in the 1800s. A caretaker lived in the top-floor apartment.
The brick and brownstone structure is among the 11 most endangered historic properties in the United States, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“I would honestly give them five bucks, I think that’s cool,” Derek Zemel said.
Zemel traveled to the Frog Hollow neighborhood with his partner and expressed interest in purchasing the building.
The catch: Congregation Beth Israel said the buyer will have to pick it up for a price well above the asking price.
Zemel said they drove about four hours from Maine just to check. He said he and his partner were redoing a campground in Maine and turning it into a wedding venue.
“We talked about doing an old western with a church. Imagine bringing the building to Maine and making it what it is and making it this historic little town,” Zemel said.
“People don’t care enough about making things look good, like this building, it’s beautiful,” said Zemel partner Kerren Raia. “You build something today, it’s square, it’s boring.”
Carey Shea is co-founder of Friends of Zion Hill Cemetery and a key player in the drive to preserve the chapel. She said she offered to buy it and restore it to its original beauty, but the church turned her down.
“We’re not really advocating for withdrawal, we’re just glad people have these great ideas,” Shea said.
Anything that happens to the structure must be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission, which says it’s glad to see people taking an interest in it and learning more about why the building is worth preserving.
“We would hate to lose it from Hartford. It’s such an important building for Hartford, but at the end of the day, if that’s the only thing that’s going to save the building, then we have to be open to all those kinds of possibilities,” said Mary A. Falvey, executive director of the Hartford Preservation Alliance.
Congregation Beth Israel has been pushing for its demolition for more than a decade. NBC Connecticut has asked for comment but has not yet received a response.
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