Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Pioneer Chapel

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Institution Name: Wabash College
Original/Historic Place Name: Pioneer Chapel
Location on Campus: College Mall
Date(s) of Construction:
1928original construction Larson, Jens Frederick
Designer: John Frederick Larson
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Beaux-Arts classicism, Colonial revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: brick over concrete
Walls: brick
Roof: copper
1928-present (2006)chapel

The building of the first freestanding chapel was the keystone for a new direction in campus planning at Wabash College. Although founded by Presbyterian ministers and laymen, the college never had an affiliation with the Presbyterian church or any other church. To make way for growth and expansion on the 40-acre wooded park, architect Jens Frederick Larson proposed that the college develop to the west, bringing together the scattered buildings "into harmonious grouping" and developing an inner campus "around which all college activities would center." The Pioneer Chapel would stand at the end of the vista from Wabash Avenue.

Larson's plan for the Chapel was accepted with a few modifications. Although the orientation of the main entrance to the campus was shifted, some of his plans for "updating" facades of the older buildings were not adopted. The neoclassical design was chosen to blend in with the existing campus architecture, and its size was determined by what was felt to be the ideal number of students and faculty in the College. The interior is a simple plan with a front vestibule, a center aisle and two side aisles, a balcony around three sides, and no stained glass windows. Framed portrait paintings of the fourteen presidents and some notable trustees are hung on the walls and are the only ornamentation. A new organ was given recently to replace an earlier one. There is also a basement which opens out in the back of the building. It houses the printing and mail office and some student offices.

Daily required chapel was discontinued years ago, but the building is still used for large student convocations, important events such as inaugurations, annual baccalaureate services, holiday performances, weekly student sponsored "chapels" on current topics, weddings, funerals, and memorial services.


Montgomery County Interim Report. Indianapolis, IN: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 1986.

Larson, Jens Frederick, and Archie MacInnes Palmer. Architectural Planning of the American College. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1933.

Osborne, James I., and Theodore G. Gronert. Wabash College: The First Hundred Years, 1832-1932. Crawfordsville, IN: Wabash College, 1932.


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Last update: November 2006