The following news story was written for JOUR 3190, Reporting and Writing Across Platforms, during my junior year.
The University of Georgia Chapel: A Landmark Dedicated to Tradition
By Marlee Middlebrooks
Standing tall 184 years after it was first built, The University of Georgia Chapel has stood the test of time. Though the university has changed exponentially over the centuries, the chapel has remained one of the campus’ most notable landmarks.
Built in 1832 for a total of $15,000, the chapel was constructed in order to replace a temporary wooden structure on campus. Once erected, it housed students during daily Protestant religious services that were mandatory.
“They are obviously not university run, but [the chapel] is a rental facility, so we still have church services for some groups that are here,” said Ashley Laramore, UGA chapel on-site coordinator.
Laramore said the chapel has been used for many things over the years, including performing arts events.
“Before the school of music was built, [the chapel] used to serve as one of the main performance venues on campus, so I’ve had people come back to see where they used to perform,” Laramore said.
Laramore said that one reason students recognize the chapel today is because it houses several admissions events.
“If you have come to do a tour, [the chapel] is where you will start,” Laramore said. “It is a nice way to have a historical look at the university whenever you are just starting.”
Several speaker series use the chapel as their platform, but Laramore said the most notable speech given at the chapel each year is the state of the university address given by the president of the university.
In addition to university sanctioned events, this landmark is chosen by many couples as their wedding venue. Often, campus tour guides tell prospective students that due to demand, they need to “pick the date before they pick a mate.” However, Laramore debunked this myth.
“It is really popular to have weddings at [the chapel], but it is like any other venue. You can still book it,” Laramore said. “Generally, both people are Bulldogs, and they come back because they just want to have a piece of the university in their wedding.”
Though they were not married at the chapel, the parents of Savannah Flynn, a junior public relations major from Lilburn, will always remember the chapel as the place where they were engaged.
“It was funny when [my family and I] went on the orientation tour because when we were at the chapel, [my dad] told everyone that it was where he proposed to [my mom], and they made him tell the story,” Flynn said. “He took her to the chapel on her birthday, walked out onto the middle of the stairs and proposed.”
Throughout the years, one of the most notable features of the chapel has been the bell. In its prime, it was housed in a bell tower atop the chapel where it rung to signal the beginning and end of each class period.
However, in 1913, the bell tower was removed due to rotting. Now, the bell can be seen behind the chapel. A large rope hangs from it which has sparked one of UGA’s most beloved traditions.
Tradition has it that anyone, especially students, should ring the bell to signify victorious events. These victories can range from an “A” on a test, to the end of the school year to the acceptance into a major. Additionally, it is known that the bell will ring for all to hear whenever the Dawgs bring home a win.
Laramore said that the bell is rung now for fun.
“Game day…that is absolutely the thing that gets the bell rung the most,” Laramore said. “And graduation…everybody wants a picture of them jumping up on the rope whenever they graduate.”
Caroline Johnson, a sophomore public relations major from Dunwoody, said some of her most memorable experiences at UGA are ringing the bell in order to mark the end of a week of exams.
“I really love keeping up with traditions and getting to be a part of them,” Johnson said. “The last thing I will do here will be to go ring the bell because I will have finally graduated after spending four awesome years at this school.”