AVHC Preservation Project: The Protestant Chapel (Building 118)Construction began on the Home Chapel in 1868. It is the first church built in the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers and paid for by the Federal Government. It is especially noteworthy that it was built by our recovering Civil War soldiers. Chaplain Earnshaw is credited with making the chapel possible, and he served as its first chaplain. The chapel was formally dedicated on October 26, 1870.
The Chapel was built in a Gothic style with limestone quarried from the grounds. The slate roof had a huge cross with a star dotted border; both were a lighter color slate than the rest of the roof. The interior is 71 by 48 feet and originally seated 600 people. Each side has 5 stained glass windows. The original woodwork was of walnut and ash. The pews were cushioned in red and the floor was carpeted in green. Heating coils under the pews provided warmth but they aggravated old leg wounds and were removed in 1883. The ceilings were frescoed. The national colors were draped across the ceiling and the stained glass "Seal of the National Home" was at the back of the pulpit.
The Home Chapel was used for both Protestant and Catholic worship until 1898 when the Catholic Chapel was built. For Catholic services, a Catholic altar was placed where the pulpit usually stands. Catholic services were held semi-monthly on Thursday morning and were directed by community priests until Catholic priests were employed at the Home. At the veterans request, a German Baptist minister was hired to conduct German language services.
Church services were well attended by both veterans and citizens from the community. Weekly prayer meetings, bible study groups and Sabbath school were held in the Chapel or in the basement. Some of the groups who met in the Chapel included the Woman's Christian Association of Dayton, Young Men's Christian Association of Dayton, and the Purgatorial Society Association for the Propagation of the Faith.
The Chapel has undergone changes over the years. In 1903, the glass windows were replaced. In 1933, the foundation and sides of the chapel were reinforced. In 1947, the interior was renovated which changed its appearance. In 1951, a wooden ramp for wheelchairs was built, the wooden floor was replaced by linoleum, and the east wall was acoustically treated. In 1960, a new steam heating unit was installed. In 1989, repairs/replacements were made to the roof, gutters, and spouting on church and entrances.
In July 1998, the Chapel floor had deteriorated so much that it was closed to the public. Our first priority, therefore, was to repair and restore the flooring to allow the building to re-open. Through grants and fundraising, we were successful.
In 2007, the roof was replaced and the cross recreated, and in 2011-2012 the interior was
renovated with new wall covering, carpet and heating/cooling systems.