White Elephants On Campus: The Decline Of The University Chapel In America, 1920-1960 by Margaret M. Grubiak

White Elephants On Campus: The Decline Of The University Chapel In America, 1920-1960

byMargaret M. Grubiak

Paperback | March 30, 2014

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In White Elephants on Campus: The Decline of the University Chapel in America, 1920–1960, Margaret M. Grubiak persuasively argues, through a careful selection of case studies, that the evolution of the architecture of new churches and chapels built on campuses reveals the shifting and declining role of religion within the mission of the modern American university. According to Grubiak, during the first half of the twentieth century, university leaders tended to view architecture as a means of retaining religion within an increasingly scientific and secular university. Initially, the construction of large-scale chapels was meant to advertise religion's continued importance to the university mission. Lavish neo-Gothic chapels at historically Protestant schools, although counter to traditional Protestant imagery, were justified as an appeal to students' emotions. New cathedral-style libraries and classroom buildings also re-imagined a place for religion on campuses no longer tied to their founding religious denominations.

Despite such attempts to reframe religion for the modern university, Grubiak shows that by the 1960s the architectural styles of new religious buildings had changed markedly. Postwar university chapels projected a less distinct image, with their small scale and intentionally nondenominational focus. By the mid-twentieth century, the prewar chapels had become "white elephants." They are beautiful, monumental buildings that nevertheless stand outside the central concerns of the modern American university. Religious campus architecture had lost its value in an era where religion no longer played a central role in the formation and education of the American student.

"White Elephants on Campus is a provocative and engaging look at the university campus chapel in the twentieth century. The author skillfully combines social, educational, religious, and architectural history to illuminate a phenomenon neglected both by scholars and its intended users." —Peter W. Williams, emeritus, Miami University
 
"In this important new book, Margaret Grubiak tells the fascinating story of how religion declined on twentieth-century American campuses and yet, at the same time, administrators persisted in building college chapels, including some of great size and striking architectural merit. This well-written and thoroughly researched account reveals much about American architecture but even more about the larger cultural retreat from Protestantism by the nation's intellectual elites. We have long needed such a study, and Grubiak has done a masterful job in presenting it." —W. Barksdale Maynard, Princeton University
 

About The Author

Margaret M. Grubiak is associate professor of architectural history at Villanova University.

Details & Specs

Title:White Elephants On Campus: The Decline Of The University Chapel In America, 1920-1960Format:PaperbackDimensions:176 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.5 inPublished:March 30, 2014Publisher:University Of Notre Dame PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0268029873

ISBN - 13:9780268029876

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“. . . Grubiak traces the declining influence of conventional Christian religion in American higher education, particularly at large, prestigious universities. However, she does not merely rehearse that now familiar narrative; instead, drawing upon her expertise as an architectural historian, Grubiak investigates campus chapels (and some other buildings), demonstrating effectively that they were designed and erected as tangible strategies to secure a continuing, yet contemporary role for religion in university life even as scientific disciplines gained prominence. Scholars of higher education, American religion, and religious architecture, as well as those involved in campus ministry, will find the book engaging and instructive.” —Lutheran Quarterly “This interesting book analyzes the architectural styles, the placement of the chapel on campus, the personalities behind the construction, and the reaction of student bodies to the chapel on their campuses.” —Catholic Library World “What is the relationship between architecture and cultural, social, religious, and spiritual values? To what extent do our buildings reflect our core values and commitments? . . . Margaret M. Grubiak approaches these questions through a particular lens: religious buildings, notably chapels, on the campuses of what she identifies as ‘elite’ American universities, each of which had something of a Protestant heritage, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Yale, and MIT.” —International Journal of Christianity and Education “By presenting the history of the plans for and construction of chapel buildings on private university campuses, Margaret M. Grubiak advances the argument that colleges and universities in the United States became more secularized in the twentieth century. Especially interesting is Grubiak’s inclusion in her study of nonchapel buildings that were given religious meaning and design.” —The Catholic Historical Review