|In 1874, forty years after its construction, the interior of
the chapel was dramatically renovated. Through the generosity of a wealthy trustee, John
Cleve Green of New York, the chapel was transformed from a plain Greek Revival meeting
house into a mid-Victorian Gothic church complete with stained-glass windows, padded pews,
arches made of stencil and plaster, a pulpit apse, and a harmonium.
It was in 1894 that
the chapel received its name. Since that year it has been known as Miller Chapel, named to
honor Samuel Miller, the Seminarys second professor.
Then in 1933, in celebration of its 100th birthday, Miller Chapel was moved from its
original location facing Mercer Street to the center of the campus. The Rev. James R.
Blackwood, Class of 1945, remembers that move vividly. He was fourteen at the time and
lived on the campus, where his father, Dr. Andrew Blackwood, was professor of homiletics.
He helped with the daylong move in May 1933 and describes it this way.
The chapel was jacked up, rollers like big Lincoln Logs were inserted under it, and
then a great chain was fastened around its base. This chain was attached to a series of
pulleys that were connected to a windlass powered by the engine of a large truck. Very
slowly the chapel was rolled to its present location.
Throughout the summer of 1933, under the direction of the New York architectural firm
of Delano and Aldrich, the chapel was enlarged by one bay and a chancel. In addition, the
interior was completely renovated with the exception of the balcony. The Victorian Gothic
plaster arches, stained-glass windows, and dim religious light gave way to an
eighteenth-century Greek Revival interior with exuberant Corinthian columns and pilasters
finished in white, gold, and the dark offset of mahogany. The stained glass was replaced
with clear glass panes of a faint purple hue, a special antique glass made for
Miller Chapel by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company.
|The pulpit apse was replaced by a deep, divided chancel
symmetrically furnished with a pulpit on the left, a lectern on the right, facing choir
stalls behind, and the communion table flush against the center of the east wall. This
third face of Miller Chapel presented an elegant and reverent eighteenth-century Colonial
Williamsburg/Low Church Anglican look. The building was rededicated on September 23, 1933,
one hundred years to the day after its original dedication.
During the 1933 renovation,
a large, four-manual Gottfried pipe organ was installed. It required the use of six rooms
in the basement to house all of its pipes. The sound from the organ came through a
semicircular golden dome above the communion table. This dome was kept lit throughout the
night, providing a warm and comforting glow, a welcome to the occasional midnight seeker
or returning traveler.
The installation of a new and larger organ in 1964 and the simultaneous growth of the
choir brought about the fourth makeover of the interior. To accommodate the new organ, a
three-manual Moeller with 2,709 pipes, the wooden paneling on the east wall was removed
and replaced with a gilded wire screen. The golden dome that had capped the chancel
pediment was also removed for better organ acoustics. The expansion of the choir seating
meant the communion table had to be moved forward to a place between the pulpit and the
lectern. Alumni/ae who worshipped in Miller Chapel as students from the 1960s through the
1990s remember a simple, practical worship center filled with light.
Miller Chapel will have a new interior as the next century begins. From its
predecessors, it will inherit the polished wood of pew and wainscoting, the incandescence
of light, and the prayers of worshippers who have entered its doors to praise God for more
than one hundred years.
William O. Harris is the Seminarys archivist.