St. Francis Chapel

Parish History

St. Francis Chapel largely owes its existence to the Irish domestics who accompanied their privileged employers to the Niantic seaside each summer. St. Mary’s Star of the Sea in New London was the regional parish and the trolley or a horse and buggy were the common modes of transportation to New London in 1905. Most domestics did not have access to either so they arranged for a priest to come on Sundays to celebrate the Mass at the Crescent Beach Hotel located at 35 Crescent Avenue. Missionaries of Our Lady of LaSalette and, later, priests from St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield celebrated the Mass in Crescent Beach during those summer months.

On May 24, 1907, the Diocese of Hartford purchased land on the corner of Crescent and Central Avenues. An additional 50 feet was acquired on January 4, 1908. The same Irish domestics, who raised the funds to pay for the land and construction, did a great deal of the work on the chapel. Rev. Francis P. Nolan dedicated St. Francis Chapel in the summer of 1908. Later, a nearby house, the Beckwith Cottage, was purchased as a residence for summer priests.

The seasonal chapel continued to serve the region and in 1922 a permanent parish, St. Agnes, was established. St. Francis Chapel, served by the Church of St. Agnes, is still open each summer for Mass as it has been for 100 years.