Steps of Hendricks Chapel, Dedicated in 1930, to Receive Infusion of New Life
The 22 steps of Hendricks Chapel—the diverse religious, spiritual, ethical and cultural heart of Syracuse University—have extended to the grassy carpet of the Quad for 87 years. They have invited students to take a break between classes; drawn in the campus community to countless performances, lectures and worship services; and welcomed brides and grooms on their special day.
Decades of much-loved use and Syracuse weather have taken their toll. However, work is now underway to infuse new life to the chapel’s original staircase, with the limestone steps being replaced with granite.
The new dean of Hendricks Chapel, Rev. Dr. Brian E. Konkol, who began his position July 15, arrived on campus as the process to enhance the chapel steps was well underway.
“I am excited to witness such transformation at this vibrant spiritual center of outreach and engagement,” Konkol says. “As both an entrance and exit, the steps communicate the ways in which the chapel is a dynamic space for both gathering and sending, as it all speaks to our core yearnings and propels us for lives of leadership. Since my arrival here I have already experienced why the chapel is so beloved, and I fully trust that its future is filled with possibility.”
The new steps, from a Massachusetts quarry, will be installed over a waterproof concrete subbase fitted with snowmelt—a system of glycol-filled tubes heated by steam—to eliminate freezing and the potential damage from shoveling. Work is also being done to improve the adjacent plaza.
A landmark on the Quad for generations, Hendricks Chapel was dedicated in June 1930, with a five-year renovation done in the 1980s. The exterior of the chapel façade also underwent a thorough cleaning this summer.
“Hendricks Chapel really serves as the lifeblood of this University and as such, it is important that we restore the integrity of the structure while maintaining its unique legacy,” says Pete Sala, vice president and chief facilities officer. “Renewing and reviving these historic steps will help secure the future of this great chapel.”
Former Interim Hendricks Chapel Dean Samuel Clemence also sees the renovation as vital work to the cherished chapel.
“This wonderful chapel has been a place of worship, joy, friendship and comfort for the campus community for decades,” says Clemence, professor emeritus in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “I look forward to seeing the entrance restored to its former glory, continuing to welcome the next generation of students and campus community members.”
The demolition phase included removal of the stone steps and the concrete substructure. The concrete removal required jackhammers and heavy equipment, mitigated by erecting noise barriers around the work area.
The subbase was repoured from the bottom up, building strength in each setting to support the higher stairs. “The snowmelt within the concrete subbase will minimize freeze-thaw issues. You bring the stair temperature up above freezing during the colder months,” says James Blum, senior project manager with Campus Planning, Design and Construction. It will also help melt the snow and take away the need to shovel the stairs.
As part of the work, crews will also replace the concrete plaza in front of the steps and install a better drainage system tied into the stormwater system. “We need to remove the concrete, regrade the area and install drainage piping, so it actually has a hard path into storm sewers,” Blum says.
“One of the unique things about this restoration is that the chapel still has weddings going on,” Blum says. “We coordinate the work schedule with the weddings.” A scheduled wedding took place Saturday, June 25, and the next day fencing went up.
The concrete pour with snowmelt and waterproofing was complete in early August. The granite tread installation will take place in the remainder of August.
The granite, which offers more strength than limestone in this type of construction, maintains the historic look of the limestone.
Following the placement of the granite, the work of rebuilding the plaza will begin with a couple days of scheduled jackhammering and accommodations made to minimize disruption of busy campus activities. This will occur in September.
When completed, the steps will no longer have the red carpet and the center railing, rather a double bronze railing. The double railing, spaced about five feet apart, will allow for brides and grooms to walk down together in a center space.