|The Crowell Chapel by Sally Gibson, excerpted from the Manchester Cricket, May 1, 1981
This is the Crowell Memorial Chapel, built in memory of Benjamin Franklin Crowell, who never saw it. He died 2,000 miles away in Colorado, after which his sister Susan had it built in his memory in 1903-04. Susan had the wherewithal for such a fine building because Benjamin had gone west to seek his fortune, and found it. When young Benjamin Crowell left the family house on Union Street, it was 1859, and he was 24. He had heard enough of western gold to want to go find some himself.
It took them a year to get to the Rockies, where they stopped at a place named, with outrageous courage, Colorado City. He started out in the Territory panning for gold. When this didn’t succeed he turned to sheep ranching. Ben didn’t sheep-ranch very long. He entered the publishing business in 1861 with the Colorado City Journal and had a hand in starting the largest bank in the territory. With the Civil War over, the Crowell family back in Manchester fell on hard times. Benjamin’s two sisters, Susan and Emily, now began to take in summer boarders.
They didn’t have to for long, though, because brother Benjamin found his gold. Early on, perhaps while still sheep ranching, he had bought into the Hobert A. Lee Mine. After a while the mine hit, which means they struck gold. Like a nice brother, Ben began sharing the wealth with his sisters. Almost every year, Benjamin came home to Manchester to visit. In 1897 he died out west and was brought home for the last time–the Crowell family plot is not far from the Chapel. Susan Crowell, by now in her seventies and the last of the family, dreamed of a notable building to be erected in memory of Benjamin. She had clearcut ideas of what she wanted, right down to the design of the stained glass in the windows.
The building was to be “of Gothic design similar to the church architecture of Old England.” It would be of Rockport granite, its construction “nothing but the best…" Susan found an architect of good repute, James T. Kelley of Boston. The February 6, 1904, issue of The Manchester Cricket tells about the new chapel: 'The tower at the entrance is 60 feet high, with heavily buttressed sides and castellated top. The nave is sold oak, ‘’’finished to the rafters,” with a Gothic-arched roof supported by massive oak trusses.'
The stained glass, made by Horace Phipps of Boston, is “unique … nothing quite like it in the world.” This is Susan’s doing; Her concept was for two panels of the windows to show an oak tree on either side, standing for the two sides of her family, the Crowells and the Allens. “The spreading branches as they extend upward join above, and intertwine with grapevines and fruit to fill the upper portion of the windows.”
The builders of the Chapel were Roberts and Hoare, who built many elegant Manchester houses of the time; stone-work was by D. Linehan & Sons, slating by Pinock of Salem, brickwork and plastering by George. A. Sinnicks, and painting and decorations by E. A. Lane. The building was dedicated in May 1904, with groups of palms decorating the chancel. Susan Crowell invited Unitarian minister Thomas Vaness, Architect James Kelly, and Oliver T. Roberts, all of whom spoke.