Going Inside: MSU’s Chapel of Memories

We had a little fun at MSU’s expense in yesterday’s “MSU’s Love Affair With Building Plaques,” but the truth is, MSU has many many great buildings on its campus. In fact, I’m going out on the limb here to assert that MSU’s collection outclasses the Ole Miss campus, which in the 1960s just went boring and nowadays seems to think that good architecture is achieved by adding larger and more plastic columns. (Ole Miss fans, please wait until the end to throw things at me.) At Mississippi State, maybe because of their engineering and architecture programs, they have a number of good quality Modernist buildings from the 1950s through the 1970s. They even have the spaceship-like Hunter Center.

But my favorite post-World War II interior on campus is probably the Chapel of Memories. Finished in 1966, the Chapel of Memories is a neo-Gothic small church in the middle of campus. It was built from bricks salvaged from the much-loved Old Main, the longtime men’s dormitory whose core was built in 1879 and which burned in a great conflagration in 1959. The Jackson firm Dean & Pursell designed the chapel, complete with a cloister and fountain to the side. Step inside and you find a beautiful combination of Gothic seeming-oldness with a modern twist. The only ornament is the simple wooden screen between the entry and chapel and the exposed brick and wood structure, but the scattered crumbs of colored glass inserted into the brick walls give the chapel a pleasant diffuse glow at most times of the day.

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Categories: Cool Old Places, Architectural Research, Universities/Colleges, Starkville, Churches

7 replies

  1. This is very intriguing set of photographs about what must be an intriguing building. At least I was intrigued enough to slueth a bit.

    Beginning at p.10 or so, this pamphlet from 2002 adds a history regarding the bell tower (which was also built from the same bricks) and its partial reconstruction after water penetration had rendered it unsafe in the 1990s. http://www.msstate.edu/web/alumnus/spring.02/alumnus_spring02.pdf , referring to the George D. Perry
    Tower in the courtyard next to the Chapel of Memories. The pamphlet mentions that it was the then-president of the University’s idea to use the bricks from Old Main for the chapel and tower.

    I was amazed at that amount of brick being salvaged. However, this link leads to a picture of Old Main and an accompanying short history that explains that Old Main was thought to have been the largest dormitory in the United States. http://library.msstate.edu/exhibits/university_buildings/index.asp

    Thanks for providing a very stimulating few minutes this morning!

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  2. I’ve come to appreciate the charms of this building over the years, as captured in these great pictures. In the 70’s and 80’s both the building and me weren’t mature enough yet…

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  3. I confess to having developed an increased appreciation for modernism since reading Preservation in Mississippi. This is a beautiful building.

    One of these days, I just know I am going to run across an outstanding modernist structure, with perfect light to capture a photograph that will render me famous and instantly wealthy. When it happens, I shall bequeath a small pittance of my fortune to PIM as a token of appreciation.

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  4. The Chapel of Memories is truly something special. Appreciate all you do at misspres…

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  5. The Chapel of Memories has always held a special place in my heart. As a child I remember going to the Post Office across the street with my father and then being allowed to play around the fountain. As a student at MSU, I would sit and study around the fountain and loved hearing the bells chime. Even as an adult, I returned to this beautiful place to have my wedding. The inside of this structure is so beautiful that it needed no adornment just a few poinsettias. I will celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary in December and am planning on painting a special picture of this beautiful building for my husband for an anniversary gift. Thank you PIM for spreading the word about the beautiful and special architecture in our wonderful state and for preserving our great memories!

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