Visitors Guide to the
Benjamin Godfrey Memorial Chapel
5800 Godfrey Street (US-67)
Godfrey, Illinois

Accessible Illinois Historic Site

Benjamin Godfrey (1794-1862) was born in Chatham, Massachusetts and went to sea at the age of nine with his stepfather. Godfrey served with a gunboat flotilla during the war of 1812, and made and lost fortunes as a sea captain plying the West Indies trade and as a merchant businessman in Mexico. Godfrey made a third fortune in New Orleans in the Mississippi River shipping and commerce trade and in 1832 came north and located in Alton, and with W. S. Gilman founded the business named Godfrey, Gilman & Company. In 1834, he and his family settled north of Alton in present day Godrrey, the town that bears his name, in an area then known as Scarritt's Prairie.

Godfrey was active in his community having constructed a public building for the use of early churches and other groups and he saw the need for education, particularly for women. Godfrey had eight daughters and through this experience noted the important role played by the woman of the house in forming children's character. He was often quoted as saying "if you educate a man you educate an individual; educate a woman and you educate a whole family." At some time prior to 1834 he met up with Reverend Theron Baldwin, a member of the famous "Yale Band,” a group of men from the Yale Theological Seminary sworn to dedicate their lives to bringing education and religion to the pioneer areas of the western United States. The Monticello Female Seminary was the result of the meeting between these two men. Godfrey owned about ten thousand acres of land in vicinity of Scarritt's Prairie and it was there that the seminary was built. Monticello Female Seminary, named after the Virginia estate of Thomas Jefferson, opened its first year, with all instructors and students in residence, on April 11, 1838. Captain Godfrey had underestimated the cost of the venture, which amounted to a foundation of $110,000.

The Godfrey Memorial Chapel was built in 1854 and was originally located across the highway from its current location. The Illinois Department of Conservation reported in 1977 that "compared to other surviving Greek Revival churches in Illinois, the building certainly stands on its own. There is nothing like it in the state. It is one of Illinois' impressive Civil War structures." The chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Illinois in 1979 as "one of the six most authentic copies of New England church architecture beyond the North Eastern United States." In 1991, the Benjamin Godfrey Memorial Chapel was relocated to its present site on the west side of US-67. Some of the original panes of glass remain in the windows and the chapel balcony houses a 946 Moeller pipe organ made by Hans Steinmeyer in Oettingen, Germany, installed in 1953 as a gift by Helen Claire Ryrie, a Monticello alumna.

The Monticello campus was purchased by Lewis and Clark Community College in 1970 and Monticello's last class graduated in May of 1971. The chapel is one of the three structures that comprise the College's music department, the others being Gilman Hall, the campus’ oldest building, and Ringhausen Music Building, which opened in 1998. The campus is the site of many other architecturally and historically important buildings.

Visiting the Benjamin Godfrey Memorial Chapel
     The Chapel is open by appointment only. For tour information contact 618-466-3411.
There is no charge to visit the Benjamin Godfrey Memorial Chapel.

Directions: The Benjamin Godfrey Memorial Chapel is located on the campus of Lewis & Clark Community College at 5800 Godfrey Road (US-67.)

Learn more about the Godfrey area.

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