Wesley College's Chapel

Wesley College’s Chapel / Kristen Griffith

By Brittany Wilson (Whetstone)

It was the second part of a chapel renovation that was to cost about a half-million dollars of donated money from music-loving alumna Joan Bennett.

The first part of Bennett’s donation – $95,000 – paid for new lighting, sound and projection systems. During the summer, a new roof was to be put on.

But after contractors worked replacing the chapel roof one warm day – which was to cost about $200,000 – a portion of it was left uncovered overnight.

Then the rain came, destroying thousands of dollars of infrastructure and equipment.

Although the sanctuary of the chapel was undamaged, the educational portions of the building were unusable, scattering the professors and students in the music program. Offices, classrooms and practice sessions were moved to different parts of the campus.

Dr. James Wilson, associate professor of music, said the damage was bad, but it could have been worse.

“The pianos were saved,” he said. “The rain took out a few projectors, guitar amps, and some papers, but still, it could have been much worse.”

Wilson and the other music professors and teachers’ offices were moved into Budd Hall.

For music major Emily Bentz, the damage forced classes to move to College Center, Wells Theater and the basement of Budd Hall.

“You’ve got to work with what you’ve got,” she said. “Just because the chapel is closed doesn’t mean we can’t have a music program. We’re getting by.”

Still, Bentz said, the other buildings are not properly equipped for the music program’s long-term use.

“The most annoying thing is that all the pianos are in the basement of Budd Hall,” she said. “In the basement, everything sounds really echo-y. When we sang in the chapel, it sounded so much better.”

To fix the damage, ceiling tiles were replaced, walls were painted, and new wiring installed.

The chapel should be functional sooner than later, said Rick Richardson, head of maintenance.

“The roofing contractor’s insurance is paying for all water damage repairs,” he said. “The repairs have been completed and the music department can move back in at their convenience.”

The roof was not the only problem at the chapel.

Only several weeks after the damage, Dover fire trucks lined Division Street in front of the chapel as a thick column of smoke rose from a trailer parked behind the building. The trailer held damaged ceiling tile that had been removed.

“We all just thought, ‘Oh god, what now,’” Wilson said. “But the fire was only near the chapel, so there was no damage to the building itself. It was just startling.”

Richardson says the fire was all bark and no bite.

“The Fire Marshall’s office was not able to determine a cause for the fire,” he said. “The contractor’s trailer was slightly damaged but is still useable.  No college property was damaged.  The trailer contained acoustic ceiling tile which had been removed from the Chapel earlier that morning.”

For Bentz, it is a relief that the renovations are finally finished.

“We’re all kind of anxious for the chapel to open back up,” she said. “The music program is a close knit group, and to us, the chapel was like our hangout place. Just like the athletes have Wesley West, the music majors have the chapel. It’s our place.”