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History of the Chapel

The previous Chapel at Tuskegee
The original Chapel at Tuskegee

The centrality of religious life at Tuskegee University has been evident since its founding, and remains a vital focus of the University's vision of service to humankind. Indeed, the Tuskegee University Chapel has played a significant role in the spiritual development of generation after generation of Tuskegee students.

The original chapel was built between 1896 and 1898, through the generosity of the Phelps Stokes family. It was designed by Robert R. Taylor, director of Tuskegee Institute's Department of Mechanical Industries and the first African-American graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Chapel was constructed almost entirely of student labor, using 1,200,000 bricks made in the Institute brickyard of Alabama clay. Upon completion, it was the first building in Macon County, Alabama to contain interior electrical lights, which were installed by the instructor and students of the Institute's electrical division.

In the original chapel, the stained glass windows were located in the "chancel" (the area where the choir sits). In our present facility, they are located in the narthex. These windows, now known as the "Singing Windows," designed by J & R Lamb of New York and installed in the 1932 chapel renovation, portrayed eleven beloved Negro spirituals. A writer for the New York Sun referred to the Tuskegee Chapel as "A Cathedral in the Black Belt."  Indeed it was an imposing structure. However, on the night of January 23, 1957, the historic chapel was destroyed by fire.

The present chapel, with its awe-inspiring sanctuary, was constructed between 1967 and 1969, on the same location as the first edifice. It represents a gift to the University of thousands of grateful alumni. The architects were Paul Rudolph of New York and the African-American firm of John A. Welch and Louis Fry (both Welch and Fry were former Tuskegee Institute Faculty members).

The present chapel is studied by students of architecture throughout the United States because of its unique and distinguish design, having no right angles. The "Singing Windows" from the original chapel were reproduced and installed in the current chapel. It has been described as "one of the remarkable structures designed for any college in the United States and abroad."

The Chapel has long served as the center of campus for religious, cultural and intellectual gatherings. Guest speakers for both the original as well as the present chapel have ranged from U.S. Presidents, foreign heads of the state, and other persons of note, such as Mary McLeod Bethune and Martin Luther King , Jr. Currently, the Chapel serves as the home of the famed Tuskegee University "Golden Voices" Concert Choir.

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Singing Windows
The "Singing Windows" in the Tuskegee University Chapel