A Jewel in Military Gothic


When President Theodore Roosevelt attended the 1902 centennial observance of the founding of the U.S. Navy Academy at West Level, he turned so involved concerning the deteriorating state of a number of of its buildings that he instantly started agitating for his or her refurbishment. West Level’s educational board, underneath the route of Superintendent Colonel Albert L. Mills, responded by drawing up a listing of the academy’s architectural shortcomings and making suggestions for enhancements. With Roosevelt’s enthusiastic help and the approval of Congress, an enormous constructing program was laid out, with a brand new chapel slated to be the dominant construction. A funds of $6.5 million was allotted for the complete challenge—an amazing sum on the time. 

Architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue was largely chargeable for its design and building. (Print Assortment, Alamy Inventory Picture)

The daunting process of overseeing the huge challenge was assigned to 2 males. One was Mills; the opposite was Colonel Charles W. Larned, a professor of drawing at West Level. Larned, an 1870 graduate of West Level had served as a second lieutenant in Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s seventh Cavalry, taking part within the Yellowstone expedition throughout the Montana and Dakota territories in the summertime of 1873, when gold was reported within the Black Hills, the ancestral dwelling of the Lakota Sioux. Larned took half in three skirmishes with the Lakota. Thankfully for him, after the expedition he was transferred to Washington, D.C., to function an aide to President Ulysses S. Grant. He had begun his instructing profession at West Level when Custer and the seventh Cavalry had been worn out by the Lakota and their Native American allies on the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876.

Though neither Mills nor Larned was an architect, they had been charged with selecting particular person buildings for alternative. In addition they needed to choose an architectural agency and a method for the brand new buildings that will replicate the aim and ideas of the academy and complement its present buildings. West Level wasn’t identified for architectural consistency, with its neoclassical chapel, Federal-style superintendent’s quarters, and American Renaissance–design Cullum Corridor, the work of the sensible New York architect Stanford White.

To pick out an architectural theme for the brand new buildings, Mills and Larned introduced an open competitors. Ten of the nation’s most prestigious architectural companies submitted their ideas for the academy’s new look, together with McKim, Mead & White of New York (White’s agency); D. H. Burnham & Firm of Chicago; Cope & Stewardson of Philadelphia; Eames & Younger of St. Louis; and Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson of Boston. Every of the companies acquired a $2,000 growth charge and eight months by which to formalize its submission.

Newspapers from coast to coast avidly reported on the competitors. The stellar panel of judges included Mills; Lieutenant Normal John M. Schofield, the previous commander of the U.S. Military; and three well-known architects—Walter Cook dinner, Cass Gilbert, and George B. Submit. The judges’ determination, introduced in 1903, was unanimous: The huge challenge could be entrusted to Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson. “The model we’ve got chosen for all of the buildings,” the agency’s proposal mentioned, “would significantly lend itself to memorials of assorted varieties within the Chapel; as an illustration, tombs, cenotaphs, wall and ground tablets, and significantly home windows of stained glass, every window, maybe, being given in reminiscence of one of many totally different graduating courses on the Academy.”

A neo-Gothic theme would harmonize with West Level’s present buildings and surrounding hills, whereas a navy theme would emphasize its main mission: coaching officers for fight. The agency’s youngest companion, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, famend for his means to mix Gothic designs with extra trendy parts, could be largely chargeable for overseeing the huge challenge. A pure artist and designer, Goodhue had stop college at age 15 to apprentice with a distinguished New York architectural agency, the place he rose to draftsman. His plain items earned him a partnership, whereas he was nonetheless in his mid-20s, with Ralph Adams Cram. 

Given the scope of the West Level challenge, Goodhue established a New York Metropolis workplace to keep up an on-site presence. His design for the chapel was basically a homage to the lofty Gothic cathedrals of the Twelfth century. To higher emphasize its goal and site, nonetheless, Goodhue and his colleagues launched a number of martial gildings, resembling battlements, parapets, battle flags, and castellated towers. 

On this 1945 {photograph}, cadets stand in parade formation in the principle quadrangle at West Level; the Cadet Chapel, towering over different buildings, is seen within the background. (Library of Congress)

Work on the chapel started in 1908. Though it was initially slated to be constructed on Trophy Level, an idyllic overlook close to the Hudson River, Goodhue advised relocating the chapel to a spot increased on the hill, the place it might tower over all of West Level’s different buildings. The view from there of the river and the Hudson Highlands was breathtaking.

Native granite, to be quarried on web site, was chosen as the essential constructing materials for the challenge. This was additionally Goodhue’s concept, to raised mix the buildings with their environment. The laborers employed to work on the chapel had been primarily international born, they usually had been promised U.S. citizenship in the event that they completed the constructing in 5 years. When it turned clear that the method of hauling granite from the quarry as much as the location by mule was taking too lengthy, they devised a metal scaffolding system that enabled them to haul up the heavy stone by hand. They completed the work on the chapel in 1910, simply two and a half years from once they began. 

For the stonework on the skin partitions of the chapel, Goodhue introduced in Lee Lawrie, one of many foremost architectural sculptors in the US. The themes he selected for the sculpture on the chapel’s north face harassed the twin martial and spiritual character of the constructing. Its varied motifs included a crusader’s sword embedded in a cross above the middle door and a protect embossed with a cross above the large north window arch. A collection of stone carvings line the east and west faces of the chapel, with Arthurian figures of knights, minstrels, and torchbearers illustrating the hunt for the Holy Grail.

The chapel’s design follows the essential “lengthy hallway” type of historic basilicas, with transepts added to type the form of a cross. The inside of the principle ground is 56 toes excessive and 35 toes large. The 1,500-seat nave measures 210 toes from the entrance door to the sanctuary. Close to the doorway the ground is made up of plain concrete slabs, however nearer to the sanctuary it turns into extra refined and elaborate, with handmade terra-cotta tiles and intricately carved picket trim.

The chapel’s marble-faced altar, inscribed “To the Glory of the God of Battles,” can be fabricated from native granite and was the reward of the cadet Class of 1910. The spectacular altar display screen, a present from the daughter-in-law of President Ulysses S. Grant, a West Level graduate, options an enormous limestone carving of the archangel Michael slaying a dragon, the image of evil. On both aspect of him stands a protecting carved angel, holding a broadsword. All through the nave, the pews are easy, uniform in design, and unadorned. The one exception is the superintendents’ pew. There the signatures of each superintendent because the opening of the chapel in 1910 have been etched into silver plates and affixed to the rail.

Projecting from the partitions on both aspect of the nave are rows of battle flags relationship to the early nineteenth century and representing the nation’s involvement within the Mexican Struggle, the Civil Struggle, the Spanish-American Struggle, and the battle within the Philippines. All of the intricate ironwork, together with elaborate gates, was hand cast by grasp blacksmiths loaned to the challenge by the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. 

This {photograph}, taken earlier than the Cadet Chapel was accomplished in 1910, reveals its nonetheless unfinished exterior. (Stockbridge Assortment, U.S. Navy Archives)

The chapel’s single tower rises from the intersection of nave and transepts. A handbook console of enormous, picket piano–model keys is located within the belfry, six tales up a slender flight of winding stone stairs; it operates the chapel’s 12 huge bells, which weigh greater than 14,000 kilos apiece and play hymns in addition to sacred, conventional, and standard music. In 1911 Normal Hugh L. Scott, the brand new superintendent of the academy, oversaw the set up of the chapel’s organ, which was constructed and put in by the M. P. Moller Pipe Organ Firm of Hagerstown, Maryland, the world’s main organ-manufacturing firm. Initially boasting 2,406 all-wind pipes, the organ would ultimately develop to characteristic greater than 23,500. The organ’s horseshoe-style console, with 4 keyboards and 874 stops, is alleged to be the most important on the planet. 

Within the decrease stage of the chapel are two of Goodhue’s homages to the castles and cathedrals of an earlier millennium: the ecclesiastical dungeon and the crypt. The small dungeon is a confinement area in identify solely and was by no means used for punishment. The strategy to the crypt is daunting. The iron-strapped door is clad in hammered copper painted black, and its door options three cut-out designs: a damaged hourglass, a shattered sword, and a cross. Contained in the crypt is a good-looking arched temple, dubbed St. Martin’s Chapel, after St. Martin of Excursions, the fourth–century soldier and militant saint.

Among the many most extraordinary options of the chapel are its stained-glass home windows representing the biblical heritage of Christianity and the early church. The sanctuary, or altar, window, fills the chancel apse and is the very first thing a customer sees on getting into the chapel. One other competitors was held to find out who would design and trend this window, which might in the end function the mannequin for all of the glass installations to observe. Fourteen corporations submitted designs, and all had been of such prime quality that the Boston Museum of Advantageous Arts later displayed the drawings. 

Finally, the choice got here down to 2 studios: world-renowned Tiffany & Firm of New York Metropolis, based by Louis Consolation Tiffany, and the lesser-known Willet Stained Glass and Adorning Firm of Philadelphia. William Willet was a younger muralist and portrait painter who, in partnership along with his spouse, Anne Lee, had turned to the making of stained glass, founding his Philadelphia studio in 1898. A staunch traditionalist, he adhered to the Twelfth-century Pre-Raphaelite model of stained glass and instantly set himself in direct apposition to Tiffany and different artists who used opalescent glass. 

In his submission, Willet promised to honor the ideas that marked the best growth of the artwork of stained glass and to design a memorial that emphasised biblical historical past and “the Genius of West Level by way of the heroes of the Previous and New Testaments.” To almost everybody’s shock, Willet’s design received out. The theme of the 50-foot-high window was the well-known West Level motto, “Obligation, Honor, Nation.” 

A 1910 view of the chapel’s inside, with its 56-foot-high arched ceiling, from simply left of the altar. (Stockbridge Assortment, U.S. Navy Archives)

The sanctuary window was the primary main reward to the academy from the Affiliation of Graduates. The donor record included such future World Struggle II luminaries as George S. Patton Jr. and Henry H. “Hap” Arnold. The affiliation later donated the big memorial window framed over the chapel’s north entrance, which depicts the armies of heaven triumphing over Devil and his 4 horsemen and is devoted to the graduates of West Level who perished in World Struggle I. With 172 home windows but to fill, it was determined that every class would donate a window in reminiscence of one other graduating class. In 1920 the apply was amended to direct that every class would sponsor its personal window in addition to one on behalf of an earlier class, thus guaranteeing that each class could be represented by 1976. 

The Willet Studio charged the affiliation simply $300 for the primary window in 1915 and the identical quantity for every window thereafter, together with the ultimate one in 1976. It was the agency’s persevering with reward to the academy.

Immediately, West Level gives separate Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish locations of worship, in addition to an interfaith middle for Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus. The Catholic Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity is the oldest of the academy’s three ecclesiastical buildings. It was constructed by the Archdiocese of New York in 1899. The Archdiocese nonetheless owns the Catholic chapel however leases it to West Level for a greenback a 12 months.

The Jewish Chapel, which serves as a synagogue, was accomplished in 1984 after a 20-year fundraising marketing campaign by the West Level Jewish Chapel Fund. Along with internet hosting non secular companies, it additionally homes a complete library and a powerful assortment of Judaica. Sabbath companies happen each Friday night in the course of the months when courses are in session.

Whereas every of the three chapels has its personal distinctive model, no construction at West Level compares visually to the Protestant cadet chapel. Wanting south and west throughout the Hudson River from the cities of Garrison and Chilly Spring, the chapel stays a silent sentinel watching over the Corps of Cadets. It combines the facility and grandeur of an historic medieval fortress with the heat and graciousness of a welcoming, if huge, sanctuary—exactly the impact its gifted designers meant greater than a century in the past. MHQ

Ron Soodalter is the writer of Hanging Captain Gordon: The Life and Trial of an American Slave Dealer (Atria Books, 2006).

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