Greenbelt Interfaith News

    January 1998

    The Great Wind and the Philadelphia Rose
    A History of St. George's Chapel in Glenn Dale, Maryland
    The Mission Times (St. George's Episcopal Church)

    We know very little about the early days of St. George's. Services were held in the afternoon, led by the rector of Holy Trinity Parish or a lay reader. The rector at the time was the Rev. Harvey Stanley, who served the parish 33 years beginning in 1851.

    There is some indication that the chapel was oriented in the opposite direction, with the door facing the west and the bulk of the cemetery. It is likely that the "road" at that time ran along the Folly Branch.

    In August 1888 calamity struck in the form of a "cyclone" that "destroyed" the chapel. There has always been a debate over just how much damage was done, but it certainly was enough to have to rebuild. The story goes that the Bible was left open on the lectern, unharmed, though the walls around it had blown down. This same lectern now holds the prayer list in the narthex. It is believed that the pews in the chapel are original as well.

    Vestry minutes of Holy Trinity Parish contain only one line: "Chapel blew down in cyclone." There's not another mention of St. George's in the record until November 1892: "Bishop consecrated Chapel last month."

    The consecration certificate survives (it is currently being looked at for possible restoration/protection). It is dated November 4, 1892, and signed by the then Bishop of Maryland, the Rt. Rev. William Paret. It was three years later that the Diocese of Washington was formed and Holy Trinity Parish became part of that new jurisdiction.

    It is likely that the chapel was rebuilt some time before its consecration date. Bishops normally visited outlying areas such as this one just once every three years. We do not know when the original stained glass was put in. The window in the sanctuary is a memorial to a member of the DuVal family who died in 1896. The baptismal font is the oldest known memorial, to Caroline DuVal, who died three days after Christmas, 1890.

    The circular "rose" window over the altar has a legend attached to it. A local resident who was a railroader observed a Roman Catholic Church being torn down near the old Penn Station in Philadelphia. Knowing that St. George's was in the process of being rebuilt, he arranged to purchase the window (Miss Tippy DuVal, it is said, paid for it) and have it shipped by rail to Glenn Dale.

    The chapel was heated by a wood stove near where the organ is presently. Older members in the latter part of this century recall services being paused to stoke the fire, although it was the pride of any rector or lay reader to be able to recite the Creed and stoke the stove at the same time. Winnie Ouellette still remembers Sunday School with the legendary Miss Etta Hall around the stove. A small reed organ provided the music. Again, more recent older members recalled pumping its bellows as children.

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