The complexity of the stonework and last winter’s cold weather delayed progress on Christ Chapel, according to Chief Administrative Officer Rich Péwé. Now, problems with the exterior masonry have slowed progress even further.
In the past, skilled masons were more common than they are today, Péwé explained. For such a detailed building as Christ Chapel, masons need to be able to carve each piece of molding by hand. In fact, only one company in the United States — Bybee Stone of Bloomington, Indiana — has the ability to make stone with the precision needed for such a large project as Christ Chapel.
The second reason for the delay, Péwé said, is the weather. Last winter, sub-zero temperatures froze the mortar being used for construction. Wind complicated the issue for those working on the scaffolding toward the top of the structure.
Péwé was quick to acknowledge the construction workers’ great efforts.
“It’s not because they’re not working very hard — they are,” Péwé said. “They’re working weekends and overtime. It’s amazing what they can do.”
During summer vacation, Weigand Construction completed underground duct work, including plumbing and electrical lines, and poured concrete the floor. They added the roof and shingles, put up drywall, and completed the interior stonework. The workers also completed lot of metal work for ceiling support, and the outside brickwork is well under way.
So much care and precision has to go into the chapel because it is designed to be “transcendent,” said Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, in an email.
Chaplain Adam Rick agrees.
“Even the architecture cries out, ‘Look heavenward!’” Rick said.
Rick hopes the chapel’s programming will serve the same purpose. Times will be scheduled for the chapel to open for meditation and prayer. Plans are underway for a choral Evensong service as well.
Despite the delays, the college hopes to complete the chapel in time for graduation in May, Péwé said. Dedication will occur the following October.
The chapel will be used for what Arnn said are the primary motivations of the donors: “love of the college, of its purposes, and of the Lord.”