Shepherd of the Sea Chapel

The Shepherd of the Sea Chapel is an abandoned Naval church in Connecticut. Servicing Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish congregations, it was built off-base to support the religious and community needs of married Sailors and their dependents.

The distinctive A-framed, 23,000 square-foot chapel, designed in the Googie architectural style, was constructed in 1965 1 3 and opened on October 4, 1966, during the height of the Cold War. 6 The building included a small multi-faith chapel, used by both Christian and Jewish worshipers, a smaller Catholic Chapel, and a large multi-purpose room.

The first public performance was held on September 11, 1966, when Navy personnel presented Franz Haydn’s choral, “The Creation.” 5 It was the first sacred work performed in the area by a combined Catholic and Protestant chorus.

A community center was dedicated on the grounds of the chapel on April 15, 1975. 7 It provided room for classes and an expansion of programs that existed at another community center elsewhere in Groton. A school was added to the church in 1992. 1 3

A circa 1953 Austin Organ, sourced from a church in Greenwich, was installed by Alan D. McNeely, with the assistance of the Navy Corps of Engineers, in 1988. 4 The 15,000-pound, 3,000-pipe instrument replaced an electronic version.

In January 2012, the church announced that it would close because of the cost of maintenance on the building and a declining congregation. 1 The last religious service at the Shepherd of the Lord Chapel was held during the Ash Wednesday Vigil Mass on February 21. 2

The Navy and U.S. General Services Administration held open houses on May 11, May 25, and June 9, 2016. 1 An online auction, with a minimum bid of $100,000, was then held. The sale of the chapel came with historic preservation covenants, limiting changes to the structure.



  1. Howard, Lee. “Shepherd of the Sea in Groton up for sale.” The Day, 11 May 2016, article.
  2. “Last service at Shepherd of the Sea Chapel.” The Dolphin, 1 Mar. 2012, article.
  3. Blair, Peter D. “Shepherd of the Sea to close in February.” The Dolphin, 26 Jan. 2012, article.
  4. Battista, Carolyn. “The Uncommon Art of Caring for the ”Pipes”.” New York Times, 18 Sept. 1988.
  5. “Choral Sing to be Given on Sunday.” Hartford Courant, 10 Sept. 1966, p. 9.
  6. “For All Faiths.” Hartford Courant, 5 Oct. 1966, p. 6.
  7. “Base Captain to Dedicate New Facility.” Hartford Courant, 15 Apr. 1975, p. 29.

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