Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge
Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge, America’s living memorial to George Washington, is in need of repair. Water has eroded the stone carvings, stained its walls, and damaged it windows. Urgent repairs are needed to check further damage and to secure the Chapel’s structural integrity. The short term goal is $ 1 million to address the most urgent needs. But this is just the first part of a total need of $4.5 million for vital repair and restoration work.
Where Heroes Walked
In December 1777, Washington’s men left crimson footprints on their march into Valley Forge; lacking everything to protect them from the brutal cold, some 2,000 soldiers died from disease, exposure and malnutrition. A century and a quarter later, a local clergyman, the Rev. W. Herbert Burk, hiked over Washington’s winter encampment site. It was neglected and overgrown. Rev. Burk dreamed of dedicating Valley Forge as a sacred place for Americans to honor the faith, courage and commitment of the nation’s founders and those who fought for freedom. He wanted to build a wayside chapel there to honor General George Washington.
Today, Washington Memorial Chapel stands in the heart of Valley Forge National Historical Park, welcoming tens of thousands of visitors yearly. They leave inspired by the beauty of the Chapel and how it honors Washington and the nation’s founders. And they are surprised by the fact that it stands on private land, receiving no funding from the park or the federal government.
The Memorial was designed in the Gothic Revival style by acclaimed Philadelphia architect Milton Bennett Medary Jr. The adjoining 102-foot tall National Patriots Bell Tower, a gift of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, contains a five-octave carillon of 58 tuned bronze bells representing all the states and U. S. territories. It also displays at its base the Justice Bell, a full-size replica of the Liberty Bell, which was used between 1915 and 1920 in the campaign for Women’s Suffrage.
The Memorial’s stained glass, woodwork and sculpture recount the life of Washington and the story of the discovery, settlement, birth and early expansion of America. In addition to Washington, the Memorial honors the Founders and the Continental Army. It contains work by some of the foremost craftsman in American arts and design. Intricate woodcarvings by Edward Maene, a Belgian immigrant, elaborate stained glass windows created by Italian-born Nicola D’Ascenzo, and wrought iron details forged by Polish immigrant Samuel Yellin make it an outstanding example of the building crafts of the early 20th century.
Washington Memorial continues to keep the spirit of Valley Forge alive by sponsoring lectures on the American Revolution with the Friends of Valley Forge Park, and by celebrating national holidays with special services and carillon concerts. Patriotic and lineage societies whose contributions originally helped build the Memorial continue to hold annual services and receptions there.
The names of patriots of the American Revolution are inscribed on the pews and walls and below the windows of the Chapel’s interior. Battle flags of the Revolutionary War hang over the hand carved choir stalls dedicated to the brigades that served at Valley Forge. The names of many who served in America’s other wars may be seen on the walls and on bronze plaques in the National Patriots Bell Tower, and new names of veterans are continually added to bronze plaques on the Veterans Wall of Honor.
Members of the Chapel serve those in need in surrounding communities. The Chapel also partners with an urban school serving disadvantaged children. AA and other support groups meet regularly at the Chapel.
Now, after more than a century of daily use, Washington Memorial Chapel is in significant need of renewal and repair. A recent study by Frens and Frens, LLC, noted restoration architects, has detailed the repairs that must be made both immediately and in the long term to repair the damage and prevent its recurrence. The total cost over the next three years will be approximately $4.5 million and the work will be carried out in two phases.
The $1 million to be raised in the current capital campaign will cover Phase I work. Urgent repairs in this phase are already under way. Phase II will address the remaining $3.5 million of restoration and repair work and will be undertaken as soon as additional funds are available.
Phase I: Phase I’s goal is to substantially reduce water infiltration by:
- Repointing critical areas of exterior and interior stonework
- Replacing critical flashing and seals in roofs, windows and gutters
- Replacing roofing that has reached the end of its life
- Replacing downspouts
- Cleaning underground drainage lines
Phase II: Set to begin no later than the spring of 2017, Phase II will complete the work begun in Phase I. Upon completion this project will have:
- Eliminated water penetration through the roof, walls and windows
- Substantially reduced water penetration through foundation walls
- Restored much of the architectural beauty of the Chapel interior and exterior that has been stained or deteriorated due to water penetration
Washington Memorial Chapel was built as a living memorial to America’s first president. It is a testament to his vision for this country. Here art and architecture work their magic and graphically tell that story of freedom, dedication, citizenship, and sacrifice. It is in our collective interest that this stunning Memorial continue to inspire this and future generations. Its survival must be assured and its art and architecture restored to their former glory. YOUR Memorial needs you. Your contribution will help us preserve this living monument to heroic endurance, which is now in its own hour of need. Please help us accomplish this mighty task!
How to Donate
Donations may be made by check, credit card or appreciated securities to either:
Washington Memorial Chapel – Fund for the Restoration of the Chapel
PO Box 98
Valley Forge, PA 19481
Washington Memorial Heritage – Fund for the Restoration of the Chapel
PO Box 466
Valley Forge, PA 19481
The mission of the Washington Memorial Heritage is the restoration and preservation of the Washington Memorial Chapel. As a secular 501 (c) 3, the Heritage is able to receive donations from organizations and individuals that are unable to give to a religious institution. The Heritage coordinates with the Chapel on restoration and preservation projects but is wholly independent and maintains separate accounts. Its Federal ID Number is 54-2167340.
Further information on giving may be obtained at wmchapel.org (Washington Memorial Chapel) or wmheritage.org (Washington Memorial Heritage)
Washington Memorial Chapel Capital Campaign Steering Committee
General Chairperson of Campaign
Vice-Chairpersons of the Campaign:
Sarah B. Congdon
John H. Carey Jr.
Steering Committee Members:
Curtis P. Cheyney III
Peggy & John Havens
R. Chase McDaniel II
Stan Sarnocinski, Jr
Ex Officio Members:
Roy Almquist, Priest-in-Charge, Washington Memorial Chapel
Karl Krueger, Associate Priest, Washington Memorial Chapel