October 15, 2018 — A newcomer this year to Xavier University’s campus in Cincinnati is an 80-year-old transfer — not a transfer student, but a transferred building. After six months of construction work, the relocation and restoration of Our Lady of Peace Chapel is complete.
The family chapel was built in 1938 by Cincinnati’s prominent Williams family, who donated it as a gift to Xavier. Relocated from the family's property in Anderson Township to the campus last December, the chapel was then restored.
The charming 22-seat stone chapel and its gardens provide a quiet place for reflection and discernment alongside Xavier’s academic and administrative buildings. It is open and available daily for anyone on campus to visit, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Located at the end of the former Herald Avenue, the chapel and Bellarmine Chapel now provide "spiritual bookends" to the academic mall.
Moving and restoring the chapel has been a monumental process. Wanting to remain true to its architectural and historic construction, a team disassembled the chapel, stone by stone, removed and preserved the slate tile roof and stained glass windows, and hoisted the remaining superstructure to a specialized carrier that transported it on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, to campus. It was lifted by gantry crane from the trailer and set on its new foundation.
Construction crews then reassembled the walls, replacing the numbered stones to their original location and mortaring, tuck-pointing and cleaning the entire structure. They restored the roof tiles, installed new copper gutters and flashing, and reinstalled the stained glass windows, which have been restored by a local glass company. New matching windows are also being created for the opposite wall.
Interior finishes include framing and plastering, installation of the original pews and kneelers, lighting and plumbing. A garden is being added at one entrance and a large sitting area at the other. The chapel will be the first building on campus to be equipped with a geothermal system for heating and cooling.
Our Lady of Peace Chapel was used by the Williams family for weddings and baptisms through most of the 20th century, but it has not been used in several years. Two years ago, Tom Williams approached Xavier President Fr. Michael J. Graham, SJ, about donating the chapel to Xavier. He and other family members were on campus to watch as the pieces of their family history arrived at their new home.
Tom Williams is the youngest of six children. His father, William Williams, was chairman and CEO of Western & Southern and one of six original lay trustees of Xavier. His mother, Helen Williams, was a philanthropist who showed passionate devotion to the city of Cincinnati and numerous causes.
“It’s a fact that Xavier University would not be what it is today without the generosity of the Williams family,” Fr. Graham said. “The donation of Our Lady of Peace Chapel is especially treasured because of its significance to the family as well as creating a unique space on campus for prayer and quiet reflection for our students, faculty and staff.” [Source: Midwest Jesuits, Xavier University]