barnwell chapel

Barnwell Chapel at sunset.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation recognized the best of preservation – including Berry College’s Barnwell Chapel — during its recent annual Preservation Awards.

The Trust presented two awards in Georgia for Excellence in Restoration. Winners were Barnwell Chapel at Berry College and the Rock Eagle 4-H Center Chapel in Eatonton.

These awards recognize exemplary restoration of historic structures. An accurate restoration project depicts the form, features and character of a historic building as it appeared at a particular period of time. Restoration requires sensitive upgrading of mechanical systems and other code-required work to make the site functional.

“It is an honor to be recognized by the Georgia Trust. Barnwell Chapel is a much loved historic building on our campus and restoring it was a labor of love for all involved,” said Debbie Heida, Berry Chief of Staff. “It is a joy to see it in full use by students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Constructed by students in 1911, this log chapel was the first chapel built on the Berry campus. Designed by local architect John Barnwell, the chapel was used by students in the Martha Berry School for Girls, which opened in 1909.

Although previously restored, Barnwell Chapel had deteriorated over the decades and was in a serious state of disrepair. Cracks had appeared in the foundation, and large sections of the log exterior were rotted, exposing the interior to the elements. An assessment of the chapel was done in 2016 and served as the basis for the restoration project that began in 2019.

All of the original windows were in poor condition, but parts that could be salvaged were used as templates to craft replacements. Gutters were installed to prevent damage from rainwater, and a proper drainage system was put in place to direct water away from the building. The logs were crafted by trees from the Berry forest. Throughout the project, every effort was made to follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Restoration and to save historic fabric in the effort to restore the building to its 1911 appearance. The chapel, which was on the brink of collapse, is now once again used by the Berry College community.

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