Eternity at Union

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By Gabe Sturges

Being well over 200 years-old, Union College has a wonderfully rich historical tradition, though certain facts are often omitted from those omnipresent student tours or from daily conversation. Distinguished alumni and events aside, just in time for Halloween, 807 Union St. is taking a look at some of the more macabre goings-on of our college. Included in the search—unbeknownst to most—is the crypt of Mr. and Mrs. Richmond set behind Memorial Chapel.

Charles Alexander Richmond, after whom Richmond House was named, was Union’s 10th President, holding office from 1909 until 1928. According to the Union Encyclopedia, Richmond was a charismatic leader and a true innovator of the college, including the decision to mow the lawn more than twice a year, and, of much greater importance, the construction of Memorial Chapel.

Built in 1925 as a replacement for the antiquated Old Chapel, Memorial Chapel also served to honor those alumni who had died in a war. Richmond, previously a minister before accepting the presidential post at Union, felt that religious services were an integral part of campus life. After the chapel’s completion, Richmond made Sunday attendance compulsory for the campus body.

As Richmond approached the end of his life, following an 18-month global trek, in which he traveled by “train and motor, elephant and camel, horse and donkey, and every kind of ship,” Richmond personally commissioned the construction of a crypt for the ashes of his wife and himself in 1932. At his death in 1940, Richmond was interred in Memorial Chapel, the building of which he cared so deeply.

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