Home Chapel, the first permanent chapel ever built by the United States government, was dedicated 147 years ago.
Two years after the end of the Civil War, the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, now known as the Dayton VA Medical Center, opened its gates to war veterans.
A story about the dedication in the Oct. 27, 1870 edition of The Dayton Herald was published under the headline “The Magnificent Chapel at the Soldiers’ Home.”
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The Gothic-style church with a frescoed interior was built by the Civil War veterans living at the Soldiers Home who quarried the limestone from the property.
“The task of labor in its construction became a duty of love, aided, as it was, by America’s noble sons and daughters, who contributed cheerfully and magnanimously toward erecting a temple to reverence God for those who battled in defense of the nation’s honor,” wrote a Daily Herald reporter.
“This superb structure, standing boldly in the midst of the numerous splendid buildings comprising the Home, commands a magnificent view of the city of Dayton and surrounding country.”
At its peak in the late 1800s, more than 7,000 veterans lived at the Soldier’s Home.
The newspaper story described the scene outside the church the day of the dedication:
“Under the massive arch bearing the inscription of ‘Welcome to the Board of Managers, your annual visit is hailed with delight’ could be seen moving a dense throng of human beings who congregated about the church until the opening of the doors.”
Once the doors opened, there was “an immense rush rapidly filling the spacious chapel to overflowing,” according to the newspaper.
Anthems were sung by the choir, scripture was read and numerous members of the clergy addressed the commemoration.
The dedicatory sermon was delivered by Rev. Henry D. Moore of the Congregational Church of Cincinnati and described as “altogether too lengthy and inappropriate,” by the newspaper.
The ceremony wrapped up with remarks from Chaplain William Earnshaw who said “this is the proudest day of his life in occupying the high and distinguished honor of chaplain of the first sanctuary built by the nation for the shattered veterans, who believed in God, when they fought for the flag.”
Today, the chapel still stands on the grounds of the Dayton VA Medical Center.
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