The Louisa Howard Chapel was built in 1882 at 455 North Avenue in Burlington, just inside the entrance gates to Lakeview Cemetery. It is listed in the National Register of Historic places because of its significance as a High Victorian Gothic cemetery chapel. The heavy, solid feeling created by the building, its masonry walls of contrasting colors and textures, and the banding of materials in the windowsills and elsewhere are typical characteristics of the High Victorian Gothic style. Built primarily of Monkton quartzite or redstone, the Chapel is trimmed with gray limestone from Isle La Motte, Vermont, and roofed with purple slate shingles. Eleven arched stained glass windows, a round stained glass window over the double front doors, and a bell tower holding the original bell grace the exterior of the building. Stenciled patterns of stars, leaves, and fleur-de-lis decorate the interior walls, window coves, and ceiling. The original wooden pews and lectern are still used today for services in the Chapel.
The Chapel was a gift to the City of Burlington from Hannah Louisa Howard (1808-1886), a local philanthropist. A native of the city, she was the daughter of John Howard, a successful Burlington hotelkeeper. Most of her philanthropic efforts were focused on helping the poor people of Burlington and included gifts to the Home for Destitute Children, the Louisa Howard Mission, scholarships at the University of Vermont for disadvantaged students, and the Burlington Cancer Relief Association. Her brother, John Purple Howard, was also a major Burlington philanthropist whose donations included the Lakeview Cemetery entrance gates and the two fountains at Lakeview. The Friends of Lakeview Cemetery are working on fundraising to restore these historic fountains.
The Chapel was built to provide a sheltered space in which to hold services for burials at Lakeview Cemetery. In the late 1800s, the newly built Lakeview Cemetery stood on the outskirts of Burlington, surrounded by farmland. The distance from Burlington's churches to the Cemetery, especially in bad weather, was great enough to interfere with the long, slowly moving funeral processions of the day. Louisa Howard's gift of the Chapel allowed funeral services to take place at the Cemetery itself.
Burlington architect and builder Alfred Benjamin Fisher designed the Chapel. Burlington's most prolific architect in the 1880's, Fisher also designed other landmark buildings in the city including the William Wells mansion at the corner of Main and South Willard Streets and, for John Purple Howard, the Howard Opera House at the corner of Church and Bank Streets. The Chapel was dedicated in a ceremony in November 1882 and was first used in December 1882 for a memorial service for Mr. A. B. Herrick, late Assistant District Attorney of New York City.
The Chapel was used for memorial services until the 1940s, when it fell into disuse except for the storage of caskets. In the early 1990s, several citizens began the effort to restore the Chapel and created a "Friends of the Chapel" organization that began fundraising efforts with the intention of rehabilitating the structure and returning it to use for services. The Chapel received a preservation grant from the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation, and in 1999 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The "Friends" raised over $150,000 and the City of Burlington contributed $20,000 to the cause during a decade long campaign. Donations and grants paid for extensive repairs and improvements to the Chapel including new heating and electrical service, repointing of the stonework, repairs to the roof and windows, repainting of the interior woodwork, repairs to the interior plaster, and repainting of the intricate stenciling on the interior of the building.
Restoration work on the Chapel was completed in 2006, and the building was rededicated in a public ceremony on July 30 of that year. Today, the non-denominational Chapel is operated by the City through the Department of Parks and Recreation and may be used for weddings, civil union ceremonies, renewals of vows, christenings, musical recitals, art displays, and other public events, as well as for the memorial services envisioned by Louisa Howard when she made her gift to the city.
National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the Howard Mortuary Chapel, submitted 1999
Remarks at the Chapel Rededication, July 30, 2006 by Jane Ewing, Chair of the Friends of the Louisa Howard Chapel