Since 1873, Kirkpatrick Chapel has sat on the historic Old Queens Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, atop a hill overlooking the Raritan River in Downtown New Brunswick. The nondenominational chapel has long served as the site of weddings, baptisms, memorial services, lectures, and other events.
Kirkpatrick Chapel is part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, chartered in 1766 as Queen’s College, the nation’s eighth-oldest institution of higher learning.
The chapel was constructed in 1873 by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in memory of Sophia Astley Kirkpatrick of New Brunswick, New Jersey, wife of Littleton Kirkpatrick, trustee of Rutgers College from 1841 to 1859. Rutgers College was made a residuary legatee of her estate, and her gift of $61,054.57 funded the chapel. This marked the first time in New Jersey history that an institution became heir to an estate.
The building was designed to accommodate both the chapel and the library of the college. The original chapel consisted of just four bays. Almost half the building was the library. The reading room ran down the center of the building, flanked on either side by book stacks. The library was active from around 1880 until approximately 1904, when Voorhees Hall was built. After the construction of Voorhees Hall, the library was moved there, the partition wall was removed from Kirkpatrick, and the chapel was expanded.
For about the first 50 years of the chapel’s existence, the space was used for daily worship services for the men of Rutgers College. As the years passed, the chapel was used less often for regular worship services and more for special events, such as lectures, programs, and classes.
Notable visitors to the chapel include Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Frost, who gave a reading there in 1957; and Academy Award-winning actor and activist Geena Davis, who delivered a lecture there in 2012.
The chapel was designed by New Brunswick native Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, the great-great-grandson of Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, the first president of the college. Henry Janeway Hardenbergh was at the beginning of what would become a successful career; he would go on to design multiple buildings, including New York City’s iconic Plaza Hotel, as well as the Dakota Apartments on Central Park West. The New Jersey Historic Trust notes that the chapel, made of New Jersey brownstone, “is an excellent example of High Victorian Gothic ecclesiastical architecture…and the chapel’s stained glass windows contain some of the first opalescent and multicolored sheet glass manufactured in America.” Four of the chapel windows are from the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany and date back to the late 19th century.
Engraving Kirkpatrick Chapel building stones emerged as a graduation tradition in 1876. Initially, each graduating class chose the location of the engraved stone. Eventually, new stones were placed adjacent to the stone belonging to the class that graduated 50 years before.
In years past, when the stones were unveiled, students gathered on the lawn behind Old Queens to see their class year revealed. Sometimes they’d create rubbings of the stones.
No. The persistent myth that there is a two-year waiting list at Kirkpatrick Chapel may be the result of the fact that reservations are taken up to two years in advance. At present, there are reservations on the calendar through next year, but the entire year is not booked.
Kirkpatrick Chapel is not air conditioned; however, we do provide fans for the altar area.
No. No food or drink are permitted inside of the chapel.
Yes. The temperature in Kirkpatrick Chapel must be maintained at 70 degrees and above for the preservation of the organ and portraits.
No. If you are renting Kirkpatrick Chapel for an event, you must provide your own officiant.
No. The tossing of rice, confetti, flowers, flower petals, or other items is forbidden both inside and outside the facility.
Yes. Flash photography is allowed inside and outside the chapel.
Renters may arrange for a florist to decorate the chapel, but the florist will not have access to Kirkpatrick Chapel until the first half hour of the contracted time slot. The florist should provide all flower containers and pedestals. All flowers, decorations, programs, etc. must be removed following the ceremony.
Taping, tacking, stapling, gluing, or otherwise attaching posters, signs, advertisements, and decorations to walls, pillars, or posts inside or outside Kirkpatrick Chapel is not permitted. Rubber bands may be used to attach flowers to the ends of pews. If special decorative items are required for your ceremony related to your religious or cultural traditions, please discuss this with Patrick Cogan, the operations manager.
Yes, aisle runners are permitted and can usually be purchased from a florist.
There are 22 pews on either side of the church, 44 total.
Seating capacity is 440 with a total occupancy rating of 650.
There are 111 regular spaces and four designated accessible spaces. Convenient handicap-accessible parking is located adjacent to the building on a first-come, first-served basis. Appropriate placards or license plates are required.
Electrical outlets can be found in either pulpit, on the back wall of the chapel, and just inside the front door.
Yes, it includes microphones at the two pulpits, a wireless clip-on microphone, a wireless handheld microphone, and a CD player. There is no extra charge to use this equipment.
Yes, but please note that if you are burning your own disc, it must be finalized as a "Music CD". The player cannot read a "Data CD." Please contact the chapel office if you have any other sound system questions.
The university organist is Renée Anne Louprette. You can reach her by email
Several paintings adorning the walls portray Rutgers presidents, trustees, and the Kirkpatrick namesake; the oldest among them date back to the 18th century. Some portraits are notable, such as the image of Rutgers trustee John Neilson, which is a replica of an original by John Trumbull, who also painted the iconic image Declaration of Independence, displayed in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.