Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Swasey Chapel

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Institution Name: Denison University
Original/Historic Place Name: Swasey Chapel
Location on Campus: 200 South Ridge Rd.
Date(s) of Construction:
1924original construction Brunner, Arnold W.
Designer: Arnold W. Brunner
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stone
Walls: brick
Roof: slate
1924-present (2006)chapel (also used for meetings, convocations, musical events)

Based on the London church designs of Christopher Wren, the chapel was constructed of red brick in Flemish bond, with white marble trim. Its tall tower's first stage was brick, followed by a second and third stage in limestone, crowned with a spire. A six column Ionic portico in limestone served as the entrance. The basilica form interior featured a well-defined nave and side aisles separated by Ionic arcades. The chapel interior was redecorated in 1942, and the size of the organ was doubled in 1954 along with other interior upgrades; the sound system was enhanced in the 1980s. The building is well-maintained and is frequently used.

Denison University was established in 1831 as a Baptist college, with a mission to develop Christian ideals and principles among the campus community. Thus it was fitting that a chapel become the central feature of the campus. Swasey Chapel was built in 1924 as the first and keystone building of the Arnold W. Brunner and Frederick Law Olmsted campus plan that was known as "Greater Denison." Ever since, Swasey Chapel has served as a beacon, its spire visible from campus and from the surrounding town of Granville. Its image appears on most campus brochures, and the chapel hosts religious services, meetings, convocations, and musical events. The chapel was named for Denison trustee and benefactor Ambrose Swasey, a Cleveland industrialist. New York architect Brunner was known for a number of buildings, including the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects of Brookline, Massachusetts selected the plants and trees surrounding the chapel and assisted Brunner in planning roads, walkways, and sites for future campus buildings.


Chessman, G. Wallace. Denison: The Story of an Ohio College. Granville, OH: Denison University, 1957.

Graham Gund Architects. Comprehensive Master Plan [Denison University]. [Cambridge, MA: Graham Gund Architects], November 1999.

Granville Ohio Historical Society and Museum. A Look at the Pictorial Past of the Village of Granville Ohio. [s.l.: s.n.], 1970.

King, Horace. Granville Massachusetts to Ohio. Granville, OH: Granville Sentinel Publishing, 1989.

Price, Matlack. "Denison University." Architectural Record 54, no. 4 (1923): 299-320.

Recchie, Nancy. Granville Historic District [Denison University]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1980.


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Last update: November 2006