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The chapel was built by estate owner John Bard to serve as the Episcopalian parish church of the neighborhood, for the already functioning parish school, and as the chapel for projected "Training School" [for Episcopal clergy] or College. Note: Before 1940 Bard College was operated under the auspices of the Episcopal Church as "St. Stephen's College."
The origins of the chapel lie in the sense of responsibility for tenants common among the estate owners of the 19th century. At the time of its construction (1859) the chapel was the most significant building on what would become the Bard campus. However the building was planned and begun in 1857. But just as it was completed and ready for use, it caught fire and was destroyed on December 17, 1858. Bard entirely financed the rebuilding. The chapel has been one of the centers of campus life for both the sectarian and the secular colleges since 1860.
Hudson River Historic District [including Bard College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1990.
Kline, Reamer. Education for the Common Good: A History of Bard College--the First 100 Years (1860--1960). Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Bard College, 1982.