Posted on May 1, 1994

Memorial Chapel

HELPING THE CHAPEL Memorial Chapel-the College's concert hall and site of many of its ceremonial events is approaching its 70th birthday, and the College has begun a major effort to raise funds for a wide range of improvements. The chapel was dedicated in October, 1925, as a memorial to the Union College graduates who lost their lives in World War I. Considered by many the most beautiful building on campus, it is in serious need of renovation and repair. “Me chapel is really a centerpiece of the campus,” says Dan West, vice president for college relations. “It is used for lectures, convocations, weddings, concerts, memorial services-a range of significant events in the life of the College. It holds a lot of memories for a lot of alumni, and it needs to be preserved in good condition.”

The needs extend from the cupola, with its clock and carillon, to the dressing rooms and accompanying bathrooms in the basement. For example:

  • The slate roof must be repaired; 
  • The organ, which would cost $600,000 to build new today, badly needs repair; 
  • The brick and stucco walls need repointing; 
  • There is discoloration and some damage to the ceiling from roof leaks;
  • A new sound system and better lighting are needed;
  • The heating, ventilation, and electrical work is antiquated and, in some cases, must be replaced.

The College also wants to add to the endowment so that there will be revenue each year to maintain the building.

West says the chapel will continue to be the site of annual events in which the traditions of the College are maintained, such as the annual Founders Day convocation, and several important ceremonies during our bicentennial year.

It also will continue to accommodate most of the musical performances that are an important part of the College's cultural and artistic life, such as the highly-regarded Schenectady MuseumCollege Concert Series. Outstanding groups such as the Emerson String Quartet and the Boston Camerata regularly appear in the chapel, which critics have praised for its superb acoustics.

“It is very important that the chapel be brought back to its original grandeur and that modern sound and lighting systems are added,” West says.

The total amount being sought for the project is $1 million. About $140,000 in lead gifts has been pledged.
Designed by McKim, Mead & White, the chapel is basically Georgian in style with a Doric columned portico in front, a centered belfry, a hipped roof, tall mullioned windows, and a balcony that extends along both sides as well as the rear. The building seats about 1,000.

Memorial Chapel Names

On the lower level hang portraits of all of Union's presidents. Engraved in the marble front wall are the names of the twenty-six alumni who died in World War I.