Built more than a century ago, Ford Memorial Chapel was a gift of John Baptiste Ford in memory of his wife Mary and was dedicated in June 1902. With an exterior of Cleveland sandstone, the structure could seat 600 and featured a pipe organ and beautiful colored glass windows – gothic windows on the north and south, a rose window to the east, and smaller windows in the chancel area, facing west.
Various interior changes were made over the years, including a drastic change to the chancel area that removed the wood and plaster detail and plastered over the decorative windows. A renovation in 1993 uncovered the windows, and a 2009 project restored some of the wood and plaster decorative work, as well as refinishing the woodwork throughout the building and installing replicas of the original chandeliers.
The Chapel has hosted musical concerts from its early years, and during the 1930’s it housed the music program that was begun under Morten Luvaas. A large gathering space adjacent to the sanctuary served as Luvaas’s office and classroom, earning it the name of the Oratory, which it still bears today.
Ford Chapel is used for weekly worship during the school year, with a Nondenominational Chapel service every Sunday morning and Roman Catholic Mass on Sunday evenings. Other worship events include periodic praise and worship services, Lenten services, and an Advent Service. The Chapel hosts college-wide ceremonies, including initiation services and the College Honors Convocation. This warm, inviting space continues to be a popular site for recitals and concerts, including annual appearances by the Alexander String Quartet. Lectures and others meetings are also scheduled in the sanctuary.
Although the Music Department now has quarters elsewhere, the Oratory still provides classroom and meeting space and is used for fellowship meals before or after worship. Anytime the building is not reserved for an event, it is available as quiet space for members of the campus community to study, pray or reflect. The building is open from 7:00 am till midnight everyday when school is in session.