Baha'i News -- A 'faithful' legacy
Religion and Ethics Saturday, May 11, 2002
A 'faithful' legacy
Post Chapel rededicated, beckoning all who'd enter
By Carma Wadley
Deseret News senior writer
From the beginning, the Post Chapel at Fort Douglas held a special place in the hearts and minds of the
When the fort was established in 1862, a tent served as the religious center. After all, the Army's
presence in the valley was considered temporary. But by the early 1880s, as the military realized it was there to stay, the
need for more permanent structures, including a lasting house of faith, became clear.
The restored Post
Chapel stands at Fort Douglas on the University of Utah campus. The chapel was built in the 1880s for $4,500; restoration cost
close to $1 million.
Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Finished in 1884, the Post Chapel was the first building completed during that expansion period. And it
was no ordinary building, incorporating a bell-tower and arched, stained-glass windows and other features not often seen at
military posts of the times.
Faith is, and always has been, important to soldiers, says Col. Berris Samples, Deputy Command Chaplain
with the 96th Regional Support Command, and currently stationed at Fort Douglas. "This building has a long legacy of supporting
people of all faiths." Soldiers were blessed here before going off to war; funerals for most of the soldiers buried in the Fort
Douglas cemetery were held here. Worship services were held; weddings were performed. The Post Chapel was an important part of
life for those stationed at the fort and for others in the community.
And that legacy will continue, as the chapel enters the newest phase of its life. On Tuesday, following an
extensive renovation and restoration program, the Post Chapel was rededicated as an Interfaith House of Worship at the
University of Utah.
"As we think about all we've been through to get here, this is truly a cause for celebration," U.
President J. Bernard "Bernie" Machen, told those assembled in the chapel for the service. "We are so pleased to have a number
of different groups here: people from the university, from the military, donors who have made this possible, members of the
The Post Chapel has a full, rich past, he said. "And now this treasured structure has been given a
windows on the Post Chapel are a pleasing feature not often found on military chapels from its era.
Michael Brandy, Deseret News
The chapel is part of the Fort Douglas property that was transferred to the university in the early 1990s
to be used as the Olympic Village for the 2002 Winter Games and for student housing as the Fort Douglas Heritage Commons.
When it was closed in 1991, the building was the oldest continuously operational military chapel in the
United States. It was also in sad shape.
"It was a close call as to whether it would be torn down," says Machen. The chapel was originally
constructed for $4,500. The restoration project cost close to $1 million.
"We could have torn it down and built something new for much less than that," he says. But they also knew
that there were things more important than a price tag: continuity, legacy, community, the spirit of faith embedded in the old
wooden walls. The decision was made to keep the Post Chapel as a welcoming sanctuary for people of all faiths.
Architects for the project were Eaton and Mahoney; construction work was done by Big D. Project manager
was Brad Merritt, of the university's Construction and Design office.
"But it would not have been possible without generous donors from the faith community and others," says
A key role was played by the Rev. Canon Frederick Quinney Lawson of the Cathedral Church of St. Mark, and
his mother, Janet Lawson. But contributions also came from Episcopalians, Lutherans, Catholics, the Baha'i faith and others.
"Many faiths came together, and that legacy will continue," Machen says.
He admits that an interfaith chapel is not a typical undertaking for a university. But he also firmly
believes that students "must grow in mind, body and spirit. This will be a special place of worship for the students, as well
as for the community."
The audience leaves the
restored Post Chapel following the rededication ceremonies at Fort Douglas. The chapel welcomes people of all
Michael Brandy, Deseret News
And, says Maj. Gen. James Collins, commander of the 96th Regional Support Command, which still has a
presence at Fort Douglas, "it's a wonderful opportunity for soldiers stationed here to stay in touch with their history. It
continues to be a tangible reminder of the sacrifices the military has made to keep our country free. It would have been so sad
to lose this."
Of all the military connected with the Post Chapel, Samples is especially touched by the story of Allen
Allensworth, whom he calls "the most famous soldier to walk the streets of Fort Douglas."
Allensworth was born a slave. He fought in the Civil War. He became a Baptist minister and then returned
to the military to serve his country, becoming the chaplain for a group of Buffalo Soldiers stationed at Fort Douglas in 1896.
"He was the second black chaplain in the U.S. Army, and the first chaplain to become a major."
Allensworth established a school in the Post Chapel, where among other things he taught culinary
In 1898, when his unit was deployed to fight in the Spanish-American War, Allensworth stayed behind to
minister to the families. But he sent each soldier off with his blessing. "Some 400 of those who had been blessed within these
walls did not come back. But their spirit lives on," says Samples. "And their faith challenges us to hold a spirit of love in
our hearts, to achieve our highest for God's glory."
Samples prepares to speak at the rededication ceremonies for the newly
restored Post Chapel at Fort Douglas on the U. campus.
Michael Brandy, Deseret
It was a sentiment echoed by Rev. Lawson, who led the celebratory prayer. "This has always been a sacred
place. It has already been set aside as a holy place. We rejoice in its renovation and affirm its position. It has a long
history of supporting women and men of all faiths. And its continued presence will make the university and the community
As it has done for more than a hundred years, the Post Chapel will continue to offer hope, love, peace and
understanding to all who seek it.
"It is an inviting space that welcomes all, is to be used by all," said Rev. Lawson. "For all can find the
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