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Alonzo Chappel House


Alonzo Chappel Home


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Courtesy of the Longwood Public Library, Thomas R. Bayles Collection (CS 28 B-35)   Middle Island, NY

When leaving K-Mart in Middle Island have you ever wondered how Artist Lake got its name? Well it all began on March 1, 1828 when Alonzo Chappel was born to William P. Chappel, a tinsmith and Maria Howes Chappel in New York City. Alonzo discovered he had a talent for drawing when he began to make pencil sketches of his classmates in school. He soon began using paints and when he was nine years old entered a portrait entitled " The father of his country" into the American Institute Fair.

His work was well received and people soon came to him to have their portraits painted. Alonzo was earning $10.00 for each portrait he painted, in 1840, when he was twelve years old he raised his fee to and was charging $25.00!

Not only did Alonzo enjoy painting and sketching. He was also fascinated with history and read everything he could get his hands on that had to do with the history of the United States. The words he read and the illustrations by other artists he saw inspired him to try his own hand at painting famous moments in American History.

In his late teens Alonzo and his family moved to Brooklyn. It was here that Alonzo met and married Miss Almira Stewart when he was 21. An interesting note that the two were married by the abolitionists minister, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, pastor of the famous Plymouth Church. The Reverend Beecher was also the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin". As you remember that book helped fire the North's feelings against slavery.


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Picture of Alonzo Chappel, circa 1864, From the Portraits and History Paintings of Alonzo Chappel


By the time Alonzo was 27 years old, his fame as an artist of American historical paintings had grown. He was asked to work for the publishers Martin, Johnson Company. This publishing company would later become Martin, Johnson, and Fry Company. Alonzo would paint historical pictures, which would then be sent to an engraving house to be made into steel plates. These plates were used to illustrate social studies textbooks. Many textbooks still use his illustrations today. His most often seen pictures include, "The Battle of Long Island", " The Death of Lincoln" and "Washington's Farewell". Another painting done by Alonzo Chappel called "The Inauguration of Washington" was used for a 150th anniversary commemorative stamp by the United States Post Office in 1939. Alth3ough Alonzo Chappel painted for the publishing house for the rest of his working life, he still found time to create larger paintings.

After the death of his first wife, Alonzo Chappel married Mrs. Abbie J. Briggam, sister of Mr. E.D. Carpenter of Brooklyn. The Chappels purchased a farm in 1869 on the East End of the lake in Middle Island. They called the farm, "Home by the Lake". Chappel then sold his home to his brother in law, E.D. Carpenter and bought land on the north side of the road overlooking the lake. George Chappel, Alonzo's brother came out from Brooklyn and purchased the land next to Mr. Carpenters. Aftertime, George Chappel sold plots of his land to two artists from New York City. The 1870 census lists one of these artists as Olf Balling.

Alonzo Chappel and his wife lived in Middle Island with their four children. He continued to paint and work for the publishing house. He died on December 4, 1887 and is buried in the Union Cemetery in Middle Island. By the time Alonzo Chappel had lived his life he had painted every aspect of American history, from America's discovery to the Civil War. To this day the name of Artist Lake is believed by some to have been renamed around the turn of the century from Corwin's Pond to Artist Lake to honor Alonzo Chappel.


View Paintings by Alonzo Chappel


Information compiled by:

Doris Hatem,
School Librarian

Kyle Guerra,
Longwood Middle School Student



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