Willard Memorial Chapel and the adjoining Welch Memorial Building
are the only remaining buildings which were once part of the
Auburn Theological Seminary, an educational facility which
prepared thousands of pastors and missionaries to travel near
and far to spread the word of God.
The seminary had its origin in the great revivals of religion
that swept through the new settlements early in the 19th century
and the resulting demand for ministers of the gospel. A proposal
to establish a seminary in Auburn was made in January, 1818
by Rev. Dirck Cornelius Lansing, pastor of the First Presbyterian
Church of Auburn. The seminary was founded later that year,
chartered in 1820 and then admitted its first students in
The original seminary building was erected in 1820–21
and demolished in 1892—the same year in which the cornerstone
of the Willard Chapel was laid. In 1872, the Dodge-Morgan
Library building was erected and followed by a 76-room dormitory,
Morgan Hall, which was completed in 1875. Both of these buildings
were demolished by 1959.
In 1892–1894, the Willard Chapel was built and furnished
in memory of Dr. Sylvester Willard and his wife, Mrs. Jane
Frances Case Willard, by their daughters Miss Georgiana and
Miss Caroline Willard. The interior of the Chapel was designed
and handcrafted entirely by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating
Company of New York City. It is the only complete and unaltered
totally Tiffany designed religious interior known to exist
in the world.
The buildings of the seminary were in continuous use from
1821 until 1939 (except for 1854–55 when the seminary
was closed.) The Summer School of Theology was introduced
in 1911 and the School of Religious Education was organized
in May of 1921 and closed in 1925.
The Auburn Collegiate Center was established in 1933; it was
first located in the Auburn Senior High School Building then
moved to the Auburn Theological Seminary in 1935 and used
the campus facilities until 1937. This facility was the beginning
of the Cayuga Community College and was funded by Syracuse
University until closing in 1937.
In 1939, it was with deep regret that the commissioners and
trustees of the Auburn Theological Seminary found it necessary
to relocate to Manhattan, New York, due to low enrollment
and difficulty in funding. They are still located in New York
City on the same campus as Union Seminary.
During WWII the campus buildings in Auburn were used by the
U.S. Navy for training and recruiting officers. After the
war, Morgan Hall and the Welch Building were turned into apartments
which housed veterans and their families.
In 1957, The Seventh Day Adventist Church purchased the Chapel
complex where they conducted services and activities and carefully
maintained the building until 1988.
In January of 1989, when the interior of the building was
threatened with dismantlement of the Tiffany treasures within,
a fundraising campaign to purchase the Willard Chapel was
launched by the Community Preservation Committee (CPC).
In March of 1990, CPC purchased Willard Chapel. Currently,
the building is on the State and National Registry of Historic
Places and functions as a community center of social and cultural
The Tiffany treasure has become a tourist destination, a wedding
venue, a concert hall, a lecture hall and an office complex.
The Willard Memorial Chapel and adjoining Welch building received
National Historic Landmark designation in April 2005.
For more information on the Community Preservation Committee,
(315)252-0339 or email: