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Gone-But-Not-Forgotten

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Though it hasn’t always been white and it hasn’t always been a chapel, White Chapel sat in the center of campus for 133 years—47 years before it was a part of Albright College—standing tall as a proud symbol of Albright’s history and heritage.

Having served generations of students over the years as a gymnasium, armory, dormitory, physics lab, art facility, the first home of the College’s radio station, WXAC 91.3 FM, and of course, a chapel, it remained vacant, used only for storage, for the last 25 years.

Ogden Rogers ’77 remembers when it was home to the art department. “I took both of my art courses in that fine old frame building,” says Rogers, professor and chair of social work at University of Wisconsin River Falls. “The large interior space was light, and the comfy wood floors creaked wonderfully. It was a piece of living history in the middle of campus. It will be missed,” he says.

In 2012, Albright’s board of trustees commissioned an independent study to determine the architectural and historical significance of the building. The study, conducted by Spillman Farmer Architects, found that the chapel had serious structural deficiencies. A further engineering study confirmed that the building required a new foundation; that first-floor wooden beams were insufficient for load-bearing purposes; and that the roof needed shoring up due to overstressed trusses.

“Despite our best efforts to stir up alumni interest and concern, it was not forthcoming,” says President Lex McMillan. “Very few expressed any interest or concern.”

While the College was hopeful that the estimated $3 million needed to restore the building would be secured, no benefactors stepped forward. In February 2013, the board decided it was in the best interest of the College to remove White Chapel.

“There are pressing physical plant needs to support Albright’s academic mission,” McMillan says, “including a renovation of the library to include a modern learning commons; significant upgrades to Teel and Masters halls; and the construction of a track and field facility.”

On July 17, 2015, the Albright community said goodbye to White Chapel as a construction crew clawed through the brick and shingles knocking it to the ground.

“Although White Chapel’s presence in the center of campus will be missed, the memories it has produced and stories it has fostered will never fade,” says McMillan. “We are currently working to beautify the grounds on which it sat, and designing an appropriate way to commemorate its history and significance to Albright College.”

Go to www.albright.edu/afs/WHITECHAPEL 2012.pdf to read Spillman Farmer’s 2012 historic report on White Chapel.

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