Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

KU’s Danforth Chapel

Photograph of Danforth Chapel, 1971

Danforth Chapel, 1971. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14 1971: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

In 1927, William H. Danforth, founder of the Ralston-Purina Company in St. Louis, Missouri, created the Danforth Foundation. It provided college scholarships, supported revitalization projects in St. Louis, and funded the Danforth Chapel Program. Danforth recognized the need for a place of spiritual meditation on college campuses. The Chapel Program funded twenty-four chapels around the country, fifteen of those on college campuses. A few still stand today, including the one at the University of Kansas. The architect for KU’s Chapel was Edward W. Tanner, who declined payment for his work. Tanner also designed The Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

Photograph of William H. Danforth and Chancellor Deane W. Malott at the Danforth Chapel dedication, 1946

William H. Danforth (left) and KU Chancellor Deane W. Malott (right)
at the dedication of Danforth Chapel, 1946. University Archives.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14/i 1950s Prints: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click on image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Image of a Daily Kansan article about the dedication of Danforth Chapel, April 2 1946

Article about the dedication of Danforth Chapel in the
University Daily Kansan student newspaper, April 2, 1946.
University Archives. Call Number: UA Ser 69/2/1. Click image to enlarge.

Danforth Chapel was constructed during World War II. Locally imprisoned German POWs did much of the labor. The contractors in charge of the building project hired them and paid them for their work. They worked eight hours a day, six days a week. Part of the labor agreement stipulated that the POWs would work on the chapel only when not needed by local farmers or industry. They worked under guard and returned to their barracks at the end of each workday. They wore denim jackets and t-shirts with the letters “PW” boldly printed on them. Once completed, the chapel furnishings were acquired with money raised by the campus Danforth Chapel Committee. One of the members of this committee was Forrest C. “Phog” Allen, the legendary basketball coach. Donations came from faculty, staff and students.

Photograph of Danforth Chapel under construction, 1942

Danforth Chapel under construction, 1942. University Archives.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14 1942: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Today Danforth Chapel remains nondenominational. Renovated and re-dedicated in 2007, it still provides a quiet place for individual prayer and meditation, weddings, christenings, memorials and student activities.

Image of Daily Kansan article about the first wedding in Danforth Chapel, March 20 1946

University Daily Kansan article about the first wedding
in Danforth Chapel, March 20, 1946. University Archives.
Call Number: UA Ser 69/2/1. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of a a wedding at Danforth Chapel, circa 1953

A wedding at Danforth Chapel, circa 1953. University Archives.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14 circa 1950s: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

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