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Helen Keller Chapel

Helen Keller Chapel

The Helen Keller Chapel was first opened by Lady Belinda Street on 11 October, 1930 on the second floor of Elizabeth House, 5 Elizabeth St, Sydney. The American deaf-blind activist Helen Keller, who visited the Deaf Society in 1931, gave permission for the Chapel to be named after her.

Before the establishment of the Chapel, the Deaf Community did not have a permanent place for church services and meetings, although for a long time churches had played a significant role in the life of the community. Indeed, for many years before the Deaf Society was founded, the Deaf Community held social meetings in different church premises where regular services of worship for the Deaf were also offered.

The first of these meeting places was at St Alban’s Church, Darlington and then the Sunday School Hall of St Stephen’s Church, Newtown was used. Later, regular Sunday services were held in the Pitt Street Congregational Church in the city.

By the time Elizabeth House was purchased in 1927, the Deaf Community wanted to have a Church of its own. The only way was this seemed possible was to make a Chapel within Elizabeth House. So deaf craftsmen spent many long hours making the beautiful timber furniture and panelling which was so admired by visitors to the Chapel.

From the time of its opening, the Helen Keller Chapel was an important place for the Deaf Community and special services such as weddings and baptisms were regularly held there.

When the Deaf Society moved from Elizabeth House to the Stanmore Deaf Centre, the Chapel had to relocate there too. The final service in the Helen Keller Chapel was held on 8 March 1970, and it was packed to overflowing as the community bid their farewell. Some parts of the original Helen Keller Chapel were re-created at the new Deaf Centre in Stanmore when it opened in 1975 and the Chapel remained an important part of the Centre until the Deaf Society’s move to Parramatta.

Sources

The Silent Messenger March 1970