Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Brown Memorial Chapel

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Institution Name: Centenary College of Louisiana
Original/Historic Place Name: Brown Memorial Chapel
Location on Campus: Woodlawn Ave.
Date(s) of Construction:
1955original construction Peyton, J. Cheshire
Designer: J. Cheshire Peyton
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Colonial revival, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: concrete
Walls: brick
Roof: composition shingle
 
Function:
1955-present (2006)classroom (for sacred music lessons)
1955-present (2006)auditorium
1955-present (2006)chapel
 

Narrative:
The Brown Memorial Chapel, built in 1955 to memorialize a family with long connections to the College, displays a slight modification of New England Meeting House style. It was the first permanent structure to be erected close to the Mickle Science Building and immediately drew community interest as the site of weddings, funerals, and, occasionally, worship services for foundling churches in the processes of organizing. Religion has been at the heart of Centenary's history, and it is no accident that Brown Chapel was one of the earlier modern buildings to be constructed on campus, preceding the library, adminstration, music, and theatre buildings, each of which shared cramped quarters elsewhere on campus until such time as they were able to move into their respective new homes. Brown Chapel is the site each year for convocations welcoming the students back to school, honoring students who have earned awards, and remembering the institution's founders. Each convocation ceremony has a religious tone accentuated by the performances of the Centenary choir and a magnificent pipe organ.

Over the years, many noteworthy speakers--not always with religious connections--have spoken from the Brown Chapel lectern. These personages include Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith, Senator Dick Clark of Iowa, poet Maya Angelou, newsman Charles Kuralt, British novelist Anthony Burgess, civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory, and others. In the spring of 2002, the Louisiana French Consul General Bernard Maizeret awarded the Ordre des Palmes Academiques to a Centenary professor in the chapel. Thus the chapel has earned its place in campus history as a site for provocative discussion, stimulating thought, and religious devotion.

For the earliest years of the College's Shreveport history, the campus buildings clustered along its western side. Further to the east, a natural depression sloped into a shallow ravine angling away from the women's housing on the north down toward and beyond the men's dormitory on the south. This depression was not particularly attractive, providing sparse vegetation and trees but much collection of water as part of a natural drainage basin for a slender bayou that used to cut from northwest to southeast across the campus acreage. Using the natural contour of the depression, designers constructed a 1700 seat capacity wooden open-air theatre in the mid-1920s. This theatre not only improved the appearance of the grounds, but also provided a means for keeping the area dry and drained. A decade later the wooden seats and stage were replaced with the permanent concrete seats that are currently used, increasing its capacity to over 2000.

In the early 1950s, a student center building was erected to the south of the amphitheatre on leveled ground, with elaborate gardens and fountain near the theatre's southwestern corner, moving Centenary's campus further to the east. In 1964 during a flurry of campus building projects, a benefactor paid for a band shell to be constructed around the amphitheatre stage, providing acoustics for improved sound. In the 1980s, extensive rose gardens and pathways were placed close to the theatre's eastern boundary. The landscaping was completed by the placement of a series of trees along the northern curve of the amphitheatre, thus preserving and enhancing the natural contours and beauty of the location. Building campaigns between the 1940s and 1960s permanently shifted the logistical center of the campus. Now, the amphitheatre and its band shell are the geographic bull's-eye for the campus grounds.
 

References:

Bryson, Helen R. "A History of Centenary College." M. A. thesis, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, 1941.

Centenary College, The College of Louisiana. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1979.

East Feliciana Parish Records. Clinton and Jackson, LA.

Fay, Edwin W. The History of Education in Louisiana. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1898.

Nelson, William H. A Burning Torch and a Flaming Fire: The Story of Centenary College of Louisiana. Nashville, TN: Methodist Publishing, 1931.

Varnado, Otto W. "A History of the Early Institutions of Higher Learning in Louisiana." M. A. thesis, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, 1927.

 

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Last update: November 2006