Duke Chapel to close for restoration work next spring

jstancill@newsobserver.comApril 30, 2014 

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A file photo of a Sunday worship service at Duke Chapel. Duke Chapel will close to the public for about a year starting May 2015 so the university can repair the ceiling, replace the roof and perform other restoration work.

NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

— Duke Chapel will close to the public for about a year starting next May so the university can repair the ceiling and replace the roof.

Workers will also restore several stained-glass windows and woodwork, including the pews, and clean the chapel’s floor and walls. The chapel, built in 1932, is expected to reopen to the public in the spring of 2016.

Duke officials said Wednesday that the chapel has had few major repairs.

“There is never a good time to close Duke’s most iconic building,” Tallman Trask, Duke’s executive vice president, said in a statement. “But we’re acting now to maintain and preserve the chapel as one of the last great examples of neo-Gothic architecture on a collegiate campus.”

While the chapel is closed, Duke will hold Sunday worship services in other locations – Baldwin Auditorium in the summer and Page Auditorium in the fall. Christmas and Easter services will be held at other, larger locations.

The closure will be a disappointment to couples who hoped to wed there. Duke Chapel has been a popular wedding location, with couples reserving dates a year ahead of time. Duke-affiliated people will be given priority to book their weddings at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens or the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, officials said.

Duke has hired the same engineering and architectural firm that restored the Washington Monument and the Washington National Cathedral, both of which were damaged in an earthquake in 2011.

Restoring the soaring chapel is no simple makeover. The original roof is covered with sheets of lead-coated copper. Construction crews will start with replacing mortar in the building’s limestone ribs.

In 2012, the chapel had to be closed for more than a week while crews inspected and repaired the ceiling after a chunk of limestone fell to the floor and shattered.

The Rev. Luke Powery, dean of Duke Chapel, said he envisions a “church without walls” during the restoration period, with more outreach to Duke and Durham as gatherings are held in different locations. “Duke Chapel is more than just a building,” Powery said.

During the work, the chapel’s carillon bells will still ring on weekdays at 5 p.m.

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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