Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel

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Institution Name: Park University
Original/Historic Place Name: Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
Location on Campus: front (south) campus
Date(s) of Construction:
1938original construction Greenbaum, Hardy & Schumacher
Designer: Greenbaum, Hardy & Schumacher (Kansas City, MO)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Gothic revival, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: limestone quarried on campus; concrete
Walls: limestone
Roof: slate
ca. 1938chapel (campus church)
1938-present (2006)academic department building (music)
1938-present (2006)auditorium (concert hall, assembly hall)

Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel was built in 1931 as the result of a gift from Miss Mary Tyler of Brookline, Massachusetts, for a chapel to be built in memory of her father. The building replaced a smaller building that had been the gift of Mrs. Nettie McCormick, wife of farm machinery inventor Cyrus McCormick. The new and imposing Gothic style stone chapel was gutted by a fire of mysterious origin on Christmas night, 1937; only some of the walls were left standing. Within one year, the chapel was rebuilt and stands now an almost exact copy of the original.

One of the most striking interior decorations in the chapel is the oak carving modeled after Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting of the Last Supper. This and other symbolic carvings are the work of master woodcarver Alois Lang, who was trained in Oberammergau, Bavaria. Sprinkled throughout the sanctuary and on each pew end are carved grapes and vines, symbolic of the Savior; thistles, symbolic of the fall of man; and carved olive branches, symbolic of peace. Other religious symbols are included in the medallions within the many beautiful stained glass windows. The most significant improvement made in 1938 was the installation of a new and larger three-manual, forty-one rank Kimball Pipe Organ. In the 1970s, school officials removed several pews from the front rows and constructed a concert stage to accommodate the Northland Philharmonia, a still extant community orchestra. Otherwise, the chapel is in its original form; it is the college's largest assembly hall and can hold 650 people. The chapel has also been home for the music department and contains offices, a classroom, practice rooms, and studios in the basement; the sanctuary is still used as a concert hall. Currently, the basement is being renovated as part of a plan to enhance and enlarge the music department offerings.

Graham Tyler is another tangible reminder of the school motto, "Faith and Labor." Park was founded by two staunch Presbyterians, George S. Park and the Rev. Dr. John A. McAfee. Although the school was not owned by the church, attendance at Presbyterian chapel service was required by all students from 1875 to 1968, when voluntary attendance was introduced. Students actively participated in the choir and in the planning of services, and the chapel was an integral part of campus life. At present the chapel is used for formal assemblies, commencements, lectures, rehearsals, concerts, funerals for prominent city residents and alumni, and for weddings of people from all over the Kansas City area.


Park College Alumniad 88, no. 5 (Winter 1999): 9-10.


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Last update: November 2006