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Exploring Upjohn’s Chapel

Posted on Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An article in the Finger Lakes Times explored the architectural features of the 150-year old St. John's Chapel built by architect Richard Upjohn. Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Michael Tinkler, who has written an article titled, "Making Churchmen," about the Chapel, was interviewed for the piece about its history.

"Before being graced by an impressive, gothic revival chapel, Hobart College boasted only a wooden building for a chapel," the article says.

Tinkler explained the chapel's beginning. "They wanted to have a bigger chapel that would allow for growth."

"To construct the ‘dignified' stone building they envisioned, the college hired top-notch architect Upjohn, who had already won recognition for Trinity Church, Wall Street in Manhattan, which he had built about two decades before."

A celebration in honor of the 150th Anniversary of St. John's Chapel was held during Homecoming and Family Weekend, on Friday, Sept. 21. As part of the celebration, the Rt. Rev. George E. Packard '66 spoke.

The full article follows.


The Finger Lakes Times
Architect's work inspired many buildings in Geneva

Heather Swanson • September 21, 2012

GENEVA - Before being graced by an impressive, gothic revival chapel, Hobart College boasted only a wooden building for a chapel.

In 1862, that changed. The Episcopalian St. John's Chapel was built that year by English-born architect Richard Upjohn.

The wooden, multi-function building that preceded it was essentially a lecture hall that doubled as a chapel, according to Michael Tinkler, Hobart and William Smith associate professor of art and architecture and chair of that department.

Tinkler has written an article, "Making Churchmen," on St. John's Chapel.

"They wanted to have a bigger chapel that would allow for growth," he explained.

To construct the "dignified" stone building they envisioned, the college hired top-notch architect Upjohn, who had already won recognition for Trinity Church, Wall Street in Manhattan, which he had built about two decades before.

The Manhattan chapel was likely the inspiration for Geneva's own Trinity Church, Tinkler added, explaining records indicate Hobart President Benjamin Hale designed Geneva's chapel in the image of Upjohn's work.

"You can see the similarities," he noted.

Upjohn's work and influence extends further in Geneva - the College's Blackwell House was also built by him, and many of his published drawings supplied inspiration for Geneva homes, Tinkler said.

Upjohn's firm, then in the hands of his descendants, is responsible for St. Peter's Church in Geneva, as well as a rebuilding of Trinity Church after a fire.

Not all of St. John's Chapel is Upjohn's work, though. Fifty years ago, an extension and tower were built by architects Frederick Woodbridge and Lewis Adams in an effort to serve the growing number of students.

Ironically, just a few years after expanding, HWS stopped requiring chapel attendance, Tinkler said, adding the addition proved "not exactly the most useful way of spending a quarter of a million dollars."

Though not a "preservationist," Tinkler has some complaints about the 1960s work, including internal changes like pickling the dark oak beams to create a lighter woodwork.

"I like to see that woodwork at night," he said - then the lightening effect is less apparent and the grandeur of the woodwork takes over.

"There're these wonderful heavy beams that kind of swoop around," he said. "You look down the length of the church and you just see wonderful arch after arch after arch."

There are features of the addition he approves of, though. While the original chapel mirrors a style from the 1300s, the windows in the expansion are in a 1400s style - in other words, 100 years newer in appearance.

Had the chapel truly been built in the 1300s, and an addition added 100 years later, it would have had the same effect, he explained.

"I think that's kind of clever," said Tinkler.

 

 


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