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Vassar Chapel: One Of New York’s Most Iconic Landmarks You Must Visit.

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Tourist Attractions: Vassar ChapelOne Of New York’s Most Iconic Landmarks You Must Visit


New York’s Vassar Chapel is a magnificent chapel that both locals and tourists love to visit. It is not only one of New York’s most iconic landmarks, but also the home of one of America’s most famous churches. 

Vassar Chapel was built in 1904 and is the most prominent religious building in Poughkeepsie. Since then, it has been a place for lectures, concerts, and other events featuring African Americans, including Nina Simone, Earth, Wind & Fire, Dick Gregory, Audre Lorde, and many others.

The ALANA Senior Council (formerly known as the Council of Black Seniors), gathers at the Chapel for the Baccalaureate service on the day before Commencement.

The Chapel has seen many changes, repairs, and improvements to its acoustics, but it is the only Vassar building that hasn’t been subject to extensive renovation. 

Design And Construction:

Vassar College Chapel is a beautiful Norman-revival structure made of granite and limestone that has been gracing Main Gate’s lawn for nearly a century. 

Although the structure is often considered to be the most beautiful on campus, it deserves closer inspection for its unique architecture and art, which includes stunning stained-glass windows.

Vassar Chapel

The joy of exploring the chapel is in the details, such as the applied reliefs and ornamental brickwork, as well the multitude of carved stone capitals.

Vassar chapel, with its beautiful stained glass windows, Dodge’s and Tiffany’s windows, as well as the acoustics make it a wonderful place to worship.

The building’s open interior featured a wooden beam-supported ceiling and served as an assembly hall and religious space. The chapel is still used for convocations, special lectures, and performances.

Vassar Chapel

Architecturally, the building owes its distinction to Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge in Boston. (H.H. Richardson, the architect of Boston’s Trinity Church and the most well-known interpreter in America of Romanesque architecture, was a member this firm. 

Stained Glass Windows:

The stained-glass windows inside are very stunning. These windows are the creation of Robert Leftwich Dodge, John La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany – three prominent New York artisans who developed techniques that allowed glass to create new effects of light, color and design. 

These technical achievements are evident in the Vassar windows, which feature textured surfaces and plating of multiple layers of glass.

Vassar Chapel

In 1906, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Rose Window was built. The window measures 12 feet in diameter and is located above the entrance to the chapel.

The planned interaction between art and architecture is evident when the outside porch arches frame the stained glass windows and let the natural light through. 

Both Tiffany and Dodge took advantage of the morning light coming from the east to create the imagery. John Hupcey (an IBM engineer who wrote a descriptive leaflet about the Vassar Chapel in 1983) noted that figures backed by an image of an early morning sunrise remain in dark shadows until the light shines through the window.

Vassar Chapel


Original organ of the Chapel, made by the Hutchings-Votey Company in Boston, was also an important part of the original interior. It was “beautifully hand-carved” and was, according to the program for the Inaugural Concert, “one the finest organs on any college campuses.” 

It was also equipped with an “Aeolian attachment,” which allowed the organ to self-play and reduce the organist’s “digital limitation.” This was the first of many extraordinary events at the Chapel. 

Vassar Chapel

An electronic carillon was installed in the Chapel’s tower bells in 1955. The carillon replaced the hard work of playing the bells with an electronic one. This significantly reduced the strain on the player. 

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