Center Church Crypt Tours - New Haven
New England has more than its share of haunted and mysterious places, but New Haven, Connecticut, isn't one that immediately comes to mind.
It's a bit odd that there aren't any ghost stories or legends associated with New Haven, considering that somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 bodies lie buried beneath the New Haven Green.
But while there may not be any 'ghosts of the Green,' there is a fascinating crypt tucked away in the subterranean underworld of neighboring Center Church, where you can see tombstones dating back as far as 1687.
New Haven and Center Church were founded in 1683 by John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton, who arrived from Boston with a group of Puritan followers. The upper Green served as a burying ground for many of the early settlers of this Colonial city.
For more than 100 years, Center Church was the only church in New Haven. In 1814, when it came time to build the fourth structure that would house the church, the structure was located over a portion of the early cemetery. In 1821, all of the remaining monuments and headstones were relocated to New Haven's Grove Street Cemetery in order to make way for the Green--the bodies were mostly left undisturbed.
The crypt that is tucked away beneath Center Church holds the identifiable remains of 137 people, among them city founder Theophilus Eaton; Benedict Arnold's first wife, Margaret Arnold; James Pierpont, one of the founders of Yale College; and the grandparents of U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes. It is believed that about 1,000 unidentified individuals are also buried beneath the church.
Efforts to restore and preserve the crypt began in 1879, when a concrete floor was poured. That floor was replaced with brick in 1990 when it was observed that the concrete was forcing more moisture into the headstones. Today, preservation of the historic gravestones remains an ongoing battle against the elements.
The Center Church Crypt is open for free tours from April 1 through November 1 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
In addition to the crypt, the historic church built by Ithiel Towne also boasts a famous Tiffany window over the pulpit that depicts John Davenport's first religious service in New Haven. The window, which is made up of 2,320 separate pieces of glass, cost $10,000 in 1893 and, since there were no images of Davenport and his followers, church members at the time 'posed' for the design of the window.
Center Church and the crypt are located on the Green in New Haven at 311 Temple Street. For more information, call (203) 787-0121.
If you decide to visit, a word of caution--the ceiling in the crypt is low, and some of the headstones are small and easy to trip over, so you'll need to watch your head and your step.
Tours are available on Saturdays from 11am - 1pm April through October
311 Temple Street, New Haven Green, New Haven, CT, 06560 map
Phone: (203) 787-0121
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