When a historic derecho blew through the Cornell College campus with hurricane-force winds in 2020, the extent of the damage to King Chapel wasn’t visible at first. However, the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history caused extensive damage to the 1882 chapel, the college’s most iconic building.

Three structural engineering firms and two architectural firms have investigated the building and reviewed its original plans. Among their findings were that the National Register building was designed to flex under 100 mph winds for 30 seconds. The derecho blasted up to 140 mph for 45 minutes, fracturing the chapel’s four main roof trusses, which in turn are causing progressive residual damage throughout the building.

Displaced

King Chapel is a hub of activity for the music department, and during this time all music ensembles are rehearsing in Ringer Recital Hall, Kimmel Theatre, and the Kimmel lobby—located in the adjoining Armstrong and Youngker halls. The Department of Theatre and Dance has moved most of its operations to the Plumb-Fleming Black Box Theatre.

Most performances that would have been in the Chapel have moved to Kimmel Theatre; a few are in Ringer Recital Hall, the Orange Carpet, or off campus. A small number of music studio faculty who taught in the Chapel are now teaching in Armstrong Hall or on the Kimmel stage. The two music libraries are in temporary storage and all instruments stored in the Chapel are in Armstrong Hall or Kimmel Theatre, along with choral risers, choir attire, and music equipment.

Restoration and repair progress

In December 2021 a specialized team removed all 3,771 pipes and other components of the 1967 M.P. Möller organ.

Since that time workers have installed shoring to the interior and exterior of the building to keep it stabilized. That work continues. A full scan of the chapel (like an x-ray of the building from the inside out) will occur during the summer of 2022. Repair work will likely begin in the winter of 2022-23 once engineering forensics are completeAt this point, we estimate it will take over a year to complete after repair work begins.

Media coverage of pipe organ removal

Media interested in updates on the repair progress may email kc_renovation@cornellcollege.edu

Video still of King Chapel Organ removal

King Chapel Repairs