Duke Chapel to close for a year

Apr. 29, 2014 @ 11:46 PM

Duke Chapel, the landmark on Duke University’s campus used for weddings, weekly religious services, tours and much more, will be closed for a year beginning next spring.

The chapel will be closed for “restoration work required to preserve and maintain the beauty and use of the Chapel building for future generations,” according to the chapel’s website. It will be closed May 11, 2015, the day after next year’s graduation, and is expected to reopen in spring 2016.

The decision to do the restoration work stems from an incident two years ago in which a small tile fell from the chapel’s ceiling. A subsequent inspection “guaranteed that the ceiling was safe but that there was some restoration work that should be done,” Christy Lohr Sapp, associate dean for religious life at the chapel, said in an email to many members of the chapel community Tuesday. “This work is standard for a building of the

“With the exception of weddings (which will be suspended for the duration of the closure) we are in the process of working out a new location for the events that take place in the Chapel,” Sapp wrote. 

The university plans to announce the closing Wednesday.

“The restoration project will rehabilitate the ceiling, replace the roof, restore several stained glass windows and much of the woodwork, and clean the floors and walls,” according to the chapel’s website.

The chapel, perhaps the most recognizable building on Duke’s campus, was built in 1932 as part of the initial buildings on West Campus after James B. Duke’s bequest established the university from what was then Trinity College. 

The chapel was designed by Julian Abele, chief designer for the Philadelphia firm of Horace Trumbauer. For decades, Abele’s role was obscured because he was an African-American.

Sunday worship services normally held in the chapel “are tentatively set for Baldwin Auditorium during the summer and Page Auditorium in the fall,” according to a “frequently asked questions” page on the chapel website. “ Christmas and Easter services may be moved to larger locations.”

The chapel staff and religious life offices in the basement of the chapel will remain open during the restoration.

Weddings -- often booked back-to-back on spring days -- will not be offered in the chapel while it is closed, the website says. Duke “will give special preference to Duke affiliates for weddings at the Washington Duke Inn and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens during the restoration project.”

Beginning May 1, 2015, the chapel wedding coordinator will accept reservations for ceremonies in the chapel in the summer of 2016. Sign-ups take place one year in advance of the wedding month (for example, July 2016 reservations will be accepted starting July 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m.).