Washington Memorial Chapel
Q.I am interested in the Washington Memorial Chapel for a research paper. If possible, please provide me with the date that is was built. Thank you for providing such great information on the internet about Valley Forge! Thank you for your assistance.
Evette M. Snyder, Allentown, Pennsylvania, History Major, Senior at Cedar Crest College
A.The cornerstone for the Washington Memorial Chapel was laid on June 19, 1903 — the 125th anniversary of the evacuation of Washington's army from Valley Forge. The original church building, however took a number of years to build. The first structure was a wooden building "...the tiny barnboard structure in the woods..." which itself was destined for fame. Then President, Theodore Roosevelt spoke from that chapel on June 19, 1904 about Valley Forge and patriotism. He was the first American president in office to do so. Dr. Rev. W. Herbert Burk, the founder began a campaign to raise funds for the construction of the Washington Memorial Chapel. He actually raised the funds a few feet at a time. They would build what they could, money would run out and then they would fundraise for the what they could do next. At the same time, Dr. Burk was collecting funds and artifacts for the collection of the Valley Forge Museum of American History (which later became officially our organization, the Valley Forge Historical Society). You could say that Dr. Burk, in the religious and patriotic zeal of the day nickeled and dimed his way into history. If you are interested in the early history of the chapel and the Society, you should try to find copies of two publications...one written by Dr. Burk and the second written by his wife after her husbands death — both are about the early founding of the Society and how the land was obtained, the building built and artifacts collected.
- "Making a Museum: The Confessions of a Curator" By Rev. W. Herbert Burk, D.D. [Founder and Curator of the Valley Forge Museum of American History], 1926.
- "In the Beginning: at Valley Forge and the Washington Memorial Chapel" By Eleanor H.S. Burk, 1938.
Another, more modern publication, would also give you some early information on the chapel and insight into our founder.
- "Valley Forge: The Making and Remaking of a National Symbol" by Lorett Treese, published in 1993.
SAS, Courtesy The Valley Forge Historical Society