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Grant approved to study history of Cape Verdean people in Norwich

Norwich — The Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office last week approved a $20,000 grant, for which the St. Anthony Chapel Foundation applied earlier in the summer, to study the history of Cape Verdean people in Norwich.

A news release from the foundation said the grant will be used to hire a consultant to complete "a historical context with geographic social history mapping."

Foundation board President Roberta Vincent said the social history mapping involves mapping the people who lived on Talman Street, where St. Anthony Chapel was located, to show their relationship to the Cape Verdeans attending St. Mary's Church, where the chapel was rebuilt.

Jenny Scofield, national register and architectural survey coordinator with the State Historic Preservation Office, said the historical context will give an overview of where the Cape Verdean community was and what they were doing in Norwich, and the social history mapping will show where Cape Verdeans were living, working and gathering. She expects to kick off the project in the fall and hopes it will be completed within six months.

Vincent's grandfather, Cape Verdean immigrant Joseph Delgado, built St. Anthony Chapel on private property in 1926. The property eventually left the family's hands, and Vincent said a subsequent owner wouldn't let them move the chapel, which eventually was torn down.

But the family and city officials saved features such as the front entrance, cupola and rooftop crucifix, and its altar. The chapel was rebuilt starting in 2005 at St. Mary's Church, which had blessed the original chapel in 1926.

Scofield explained of why the State Historic Preservation Office approved this grant, "In talking with Roberta and hearing about her family's history, and the history of the Cape Verdean community in Norwich, it just became apparent that this is important history that's not well-known in Connecticut and seemed under-recognized."

One goal of the St. Anthony Chapel Foundation is to get the chapel recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. It can't be listed individually because of its relocation and reconstruction, but it could be recognized as a contributing resource to a National Register district.

The project will provide information that will enable preservation planning, the news release said. Information will provide the basis for updating National Register nominations in the Ethnic Heritage category.

"It'll be more protected being under the national umbrella in Greeneville, and there will never be a time that it would ever be torn down," Vincent said. "It'll be safe, and that's what I want."

She said documenting Cape Verdean history is important because many of the community's elders have died, and she and other board members will help the consultant identify people to interview. Scofield explained that the foundation will be guiding and informing the research that the consultant will write up.

Vincent said of the importance of the chapel, "It is the symbol of the arrival, the settlement and the establishment of the Cape Verdeans in the city of Norwich. It's the only symbol left."


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