Washington Memorial Chapel

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Exterior view of the Chapel.
Jennewein's George Washington statue on the exterior of the carillon tower.

Washington Memorial Chapel — located on Pennsylvania Route 23 in Valley Forge National Historical Park — is both a monument to General George Washington and an active Episcopal parish in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The church was inspired by a sermon preached by Reverend Dr. W. Herbert Burk, founder and first rector of the parish.[1] The building was designed by architect Milton B. Medary.[2]


Reverend Burk was rector of an Episcopal church in nearby Norristown. The money for the chapel was raised in small increments (nickels and dimes), and its stone walls were built a "few feet at a time."[3] In the religious and patriotic zeal of the day, Dr. Burk was active in trying to preserve Valley Forge, and in the establishment of the Valley Forge Museum of American History (the predecessor to the Valley Forge Historical Society).[3]

On June 19, 1903, the 125th anniversary of the evacuation of the continental army from Valley Forge,[3] the cornerstone was laid on property donated by the I. Heston Todd family. A small wood-framed building preceded the present structure. Following President Roosevelt's visit to the site and address in 1904, the original structure was named the "Theodore Roosevelt Chapel."[4]

The Chapel was completed in 1917 and is currently the home of an active parish in addition to serving as a National Memorial to Washington.[3] The chapel serves as a wayside chapel to those who visit Valley Forge National Historical Park, and welcomes visitors from all over the world.[4]

Noted ironsmith Samuel Yellin produced the wrought iron gates, hardware & locks. He was one of many artisans to produce sculptures, stonework, stained glass and metal work.[5] The interior woodwork was supplied by Belgian-American cabinetmaker Edward Maene (1852–1931).[6]

From the visitor's perspective the Chapel, with its central location, can appear to be a part of the park. However, the Chapel and surrounding property belong to the Episcopal Church. Across Port Kennedy Road from the Chapel sits the builder's model of the Washington Monument. This obelisk marks the grave of Lieutennant John Waterman. The original Waterman gravestone was originally on display in the visitor's center museum. The Bell Tower houses the DAR Patriot Rolls, listing those that served in the Revolutionary War, and the Chapel grounds host the World of Scouting Museum.[7]

National Patriots Bell Tower and Carillon[edit]

The National Patriots Bell Tower[8] was a later addition to the Chapel, and houses its carillon. The 102 ft (31 m) tower was built entirely with funds raised by members of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) over a period of more than a decade.[9] Construction began in 1941, but was suspended due to World War II, and restarted in 1949.[10] The bell tower was completed and dedicated in 1953.

It contains a traditional carillon, with a keyboard of 58 bells. The first 14 bells (from the Meneely Bell Foundry) were installed in a temporary wooden tower in 1926, and the number of bells expanded over the course of three decades. Fifty-six bells were installed in the bell tower in 1953, and expanded to 58 bells in 1963 with two bells from the Fonderie Paccard in France.[8]


Stained glass[edit]

  • George Washington Window (year), south wall (over entrance), Nicola D'Ascenzo, designer.[11] Depicts 36 scenes from Washington's life.
  • Anthony Wayne Window (year), west wall, Nicola D'Ascenzo, designer.[12] Depicts 12 scenes of American expansion.
  • Alexander Hamilton Window (year), east wall, Nicola D'Ascenzo, designer.
  • Martha Washington Window (1918), north wall (over altar), Nicola D'Ascenzo, designer.
  • Washington at Prayer Window (year), bell tower chamber, Nicola D'Ascenzo, designer.[13]


  • George Washington (statue, limestone, 1953), exterior of carillon tower, C. Paul Jennewein, sculptor.[14]
  • Valley Forge (Seated Washington) (statuette, bronze, 1878), chancel, Franklin Simmons, sculptor.[15]
  • Sacrifice and Devotion (Grieving Mother) (statue, bronze, 1914), Heckscher Memorial, Cloister of the Colonies, Bela Pratt, sculptor.[16][17]
  • Declaration of Independence Tablet (bronze, 1914), chancel, Martha Maulsby Hovenden, sculptor.
  • United States Constitution Tablet (bronze, 1914), chancel, Martha Maulsby Hovenden, sculptor.
  • Bishop William White (statue, bronze, 1937), Alexander Stirling Calder, sculptor.
  • Choir stalls (white oak, year), chancel, Milton B. Medary, designer, Edward Maene, carver.[18][19][20]
  • Litany desk (Prie-dieu) (white oak, year), chancel, Milton B. Medary, designer, Edward Maene, carver.

Other media[edit]

  • George Washington portrait mosaic (year), bell tower chamber, Nicola D'Ascenzo, designer.[21]
  • Justice Bell (1915), bell tower chamber.[22] This half-size replica of the Liberty Bell was used in the Women's Suffrage movement.


  1. ^ Treese, Lorett (1995). "A Struggle for Growth and Professionalism at the Washington Memorial". Valley Forge: Making and Remaking a National Symbol. The Pennsylvania State University Press. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  2. ^ "Washington Memorial Chapel & Bell Tower". Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Washington Memorial Chapel". Valley Forge FAQs. ushistory.org. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  4. ^ a b "About the Chapel". Washington Memorial Chapel. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  5. ^ "Washington Memorial Chapel & Bell Tower: Chronology". Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  6. ^ Lita Solis-Cohen, "Winterthur’s Philadelphia Furniture Forum: What Was Learned?" Furniture News, March 5, 2014.
  7. ^ "About The Museum". World of Scouting Museum. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  8. ^ a b "VALLEY FORGE : USA - PA". Traditional carillons in North America: index by state/province. Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA). 2006-06-01. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  9. ^ "Work of the Society". About the DAR. National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  10. ^ Shelley, p. 33.
  11. ^ George Washington Window, from Flickr.
  12. ^ Anthony Wayne Window, from Washington Memorial Chapel.
  13. ^ Washington at Prayer Window, from Flickr.
  14. ^ Howarth, Shirley Reiff, C. Paul Jennewein: Sculptor, The Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Florida, 1980, p.138
  15. ^ Valley Forge (Seated Washington), from Flickr.
  16. ^ Sacrifice and Devotion, from Bela Lyon Pratt.
  17. ^ Sacrifice and Devotion, from Flickr.
  18. ^ Choir stalls, from Flickr.
  19. ^ Choir stalls, from Flickr.
  20. ^ Choir stalls, from Flickr.
  21. ^ Washington Mosaic, from Flickr.
  22. ^ Justice Bell from Flickr.


  • Rev. W. Herbert Burk, D.D., Making a Museum: The Confessions of a Curator (1926). Burk was the founder and curator of the Valley Forge Museum of American History.
  • D'Ascenzo Studios, The Memorial Windows, Washington Memorial Chapel, Valley Forge, Pa. (1930).
  • Eleanor H.S. Burk, In the Beginning: at Valley Forge and the Washington Memorial Chapel (1938).
  • Shelley A. Perdue, The Washington Memorial Chapel: Historic Structure Report and Condition Assessment, (Masters thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 2005).[1]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°06′16″N 75°26′15″W / 40.10456°N 75.43759°W / 40.10456; -75.43759