The Kansas Chapel

Written by: Kathryn West, Kansas State Regent
October 26, 2018

Kansas Daughters adopted the saying “When one door closes, open another”.  Such was the case when the entrance to the Kansas Chapel through the DAR Museum gallery was permanently closed due to renovations for the President General’s Project.  A dedicated entrance to the Kansas Chapel was created off the north hallway in the Administration Building leading into what is referred to as Stone Hall.

Denise Bullock, Kansas State Chaplain, and I visited the chapel in March to determine what to do with the layout considering the new entrance now placed visitors at the rear of the altar table.  We sketched out plans for new furniture and a new stained-glass piece as the orientation of the chapel needed to shift 180 degrees.  Mrs. Bullock developed criteria for selection of Kansas artisans for the furniture and stained-glass work, and the interview process began.  Early on we knew that the Kansas gentlemen commissioned for this work were the absolute best for the tasks at hand.  Nearly $35,000 was raised from generous donors and the project was underway.

Bob Rummer of Lawrence, Kansas, was selected to craft the new altar and narthex tables.  His workshop contains many tools that his great grandfather used for furniture making in Germany. After meeting with Mr. Rummer and seeing that his concepts for these pieces tied to the surrounding architecture and grand staircase, a third piece, the memorial book table, was also commissioned. Mr. Rummer took great care in documenting his process and any acquisitions of hardwood. Kansas black walnut had been chosen for the project and we wanted to know its history.  He noted that a felled black walnut tree on his property was used.  It was an old tree, well over 100 years old.  We suspect that the pioneer, Lewis Howell, who was also a carpenter and cabinet maker, and who homesteaded that piece of property in 1854 likely planted the very tree that was used for our chapel tables. 

Don Bearden of Creative Stained Glass took our concept of interpreting Arnold Friberg’s Prayer at Valley Forge and turned it into a stunning piece for the wall that now separates the Kansas Chapel from the NSDAR Museum.  It is backlit and encased in a black walnut shadow box frame.  The black walnut surrounding the stained-glass piece is from the same tree that Mr. Rummer used for the tables. Mr. Bearden began his study of stained-glass as a young apprentice in 1974 in West Germany, studying under a master of the craft.  He and his wife, Debbie Bearden, drove the commissioned work to Washington D.C. and helped in the process of hanging it.  It was a privilege to show Mr. and Mrs. Bearden around the NSDAR complex of buildings, including the Museum and Constitution Hall. Both Mrs. Rummer and Mrs. Bearden have been invited to join the DAR and happily that process is underway.  

While the Kansas Chapel work is not fully finished, please stop in and look at the fine craftsmanship of artisans from Kansas.  You’ll also find two fabulous sunflower stained-glass windows that came from the Carnegie Library in Wichita, Kansas and which have had a place in the Kansas Chapel since 1967. Daughters, staff, and visitors are welcomed and encouraged to come into the Kansas Chapel for reflection and prayer. 

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