Unusual crypt lies beneath historic New Haven church

New Haven

Beneath one of New Haven’s oldest churches lies something unique: a cemetery.

Underneath Center Church on the Green, you’ll find the resting place of 137 people.

In 1812, when the congregation decided to build a new meetinghouse in a growing New Haven, the options were limited.

“Instead of disturbing the gravestones, they simply built the church on top,” said Nancy O’Hearn, a church member who gives tours of the crypt. She explained that it’s not the only church with graves in the basement, but it may be the only cemetery with a church built on top. 

Related Content: Tales of Ghosts at the Historic Leffingwell House in Norwich, Connecticut

The unusual sight gives us a glimpse at New Haven’s past.

Centuries ago, thousands of gravestones once covered the green. “This crypt that is now beneath us is exactly how this portion of the green looked then,” said O’Hearn.

Less than 20 years after the new meetinghouse was built, the gravestones on the green were all removed, “but the ones that are here underneath this glorious church are just as they had been when they began building the church in 1812,” said O’Hearn. 

It’s even the resting place of Benedict Arnold’s first wife, Margaret.

You can still visit the church to this day to see the graves of New Haven’s earliest settlers. 

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