‘Los Alamos Chapel, 1948’ water color by Doug Ballard (1922-2001) who served the Manhattan Project in both Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, and retired from Sandia National Laboratories. Courtesy/UCLA collection
“It was a second-hand chapel because in its previous life it was the chapel at the Bruns Military Hospital in Santa Fe…which was then on the southern fringes of the city of the Holy Faith,” said United Church charter member Krik Krikorian, remembering the 1947 beginnings of the first church in Los Alamos.
The US Congress had approved in 1941 the “standard design chapel” to be built on army bases. Just over 600 were built during WW II, and the United Church of Los Alamos is one of those.
The Los Alamos community is invited to an Open House 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 29, at the historic former army chapel at 2505 Canyon Road where it was reassembled upon arrival from Santa Fe in 1947.
Drop by for punch and cookies under the pines on the church lawn where interpretive exhibits will be set up. Browse inside the historic church (masks required indoors) at your leisure. Marvel at the locally crafted stained-glass windows created during the Cold War, note the original ceiling, light fixtures, and window placement, and maybe even meditate a moment to the sound of the pipe organ.
According to US Army Corps of Engineers documents, famed Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem was the architect of record for all of the Bruns Hospital “standard design” buildings, including the Chapel. Perhaps the swag light fixtures are one of his touches.
Utilizing Los Alamos County’s Historic Preservation Ordinance, and with guidance from the Historic Preservation Advisory Board (HPAB), the United Church has submitted the first Los Alamos County historic landmark application. The community is invited to see this historic WW II chapel.
Spiritual grounding and seeking is unheralded in most histories of the Manhattan Project and the subsequent Cold War. This historic chapel helps signify that aspect of Los Alamos history.
All are welcome at the United Church of Los Alamos, unitedchurchla.org, for the Aug. 29 Historic Chapel Open House, and at regular worship services at 9:30 a.m. every Sunday in the sanctuary, the original chapel building. The United Church of Los Alamos is a self-governing Christian community with ties to six Protestant denominations.