Chapel Revamp Ongoing
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 17:09
Renovations to Dahlgren Chapel are well under way as the fall semester ushers the community back into the worship space.
The two-year, $8 million restoration of the chapel began in 2011 with a leadership gift of $6.2 million dollars from L. Francis (CAS ’75, LAW ’78) and Kathleen (SFS ’77) Rooney.
This summer, the Manhattan Construction Group drilled 110 micropiles which will balance the chapel on bedrock, providing better foundational support. Once the foundation is repaired, attention will turn toward the chapel’s interior, where the university hopes to paint, update seating and move the organ.
Gina Bleck, Georgetown's assistant vice president for planning and project management, expressed surprise that the Rooneys were willing to donate to the project.
“We’re amazed that the Rooney foundation [was] willing to donate to something that will largely go unseen,” Bleck said. “Nevertheless, the work is so important to maintaining this structure for hundreds of years to come.”
Students who attend mass at Dahlgren said that signs of the construction are noticeable but not entirely disruptive.
“The chapel is still being renovated, so I haven’t really noticed anything new. I’m sure it will look great when they finish, but for now, it pretty much looks the same as last year,” Michelle Mohr (COL ’15) said.
While the heavy construction period came to an end as classes began last week, work on the exterior of the chapel will continue throughout the fall semester.
According to Manhattan Construction Group Project Manager Greg Davis, the chapel’s stained glass windows were removed for cleaning and will be reinstalled after the building’s foundation settles.
The windows’ historical glass has been preserved entirely, and Davis expects the windows to be reinstalled by the beginning of November.
The majority of the interior work will focus on the relocation of the organ, whose pipes will stand along the Sacred Heart windows on the west facade of the chapel.
“The relocation of the organ will place it directly behind the altar and near to where the choir stands, which will be much better for sound,” Bleck said.
In an article last winter (“Dahlgren’s Interior Plan Unveiled,” The Hoya, A4, Feb. 10, 2012), students, faculty and priests voiced concerns about the location of the tabernacle, which is currently situated on the right side of the chapel.
“I am particularly disappointed by the failure to restore the tabernacle to its proper place in the center of the church,” Kieran Raval (COL ’13) said. “In initial discussions about the renovation, this was seen as a goal, but that has been revised.”
According to Bleck, the tabernacle will remain on the right but will be more visible when visitors enter the chapel, and the Paschal candle will also be moved to a more obvious location.
“People who want to come into the chapel for private prayer will now be able to see the tabernacle more easily,” Bleck said.
But the deadline for the restoration is still unclear because the progress of construction is dependent on raising the remaining necessary funds.
According to Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J. (CAS ’88), alumni and couples who were married in the chapel have aided the renovation process by making both large and small donations.
“A $200 gift from an alumnus means just as much to me as a $20,000 gift because it shows that Dahlgren Chapel means something to them,” he said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Gina Bleck was the project manager for Manhattan Construction Group. She is actually the assistant vice president for planning and project Management at Georgetown. The correct version was posted at 5:39 p.m. Sept. 7.