Barnwell Chapel

Floyd County
Org 1911
Photography by Sam Ratcliffe

We are grateful to Chris Reinolds Kozelle, Director of Public Relations, Berry College for the history of Barnwell Chapel and the story of the renovation.  It is a tribute to the college that they are very careful with the preservation of the Berry legacy and that of Martha Berry.  This little chapel is a jewel that will be around for many more generations.

Barnwell Chapel, located on the campus of Berry College, was built in 1911 by John Barnwell.  He  was a local architect who designed several of the Berry school buildings.  Over the years it has been used as a chapel, classroom, study hall, library, music studio and a small store.  It was built as a wood frame building with a log veneer and therefore the exterior logs are able to be removed and replaced, as they were done in a recent renovation.  The chapel has been faithfully restored using logs from the many timber stands on the Berry College campus.  The campus, the world’s largest, consists of 27,000 acres.  The 2019 renovation was needed because there was serious rotting of logs and other structural issues.  In the recent renovation, great care was taken to bring the chapel back to the original design and prevent future structural issues.

Captain John Gibbs Barnwell was originally from Charleston, SC, and prior to being an architect, he had been a sea captain. He had retired to Mt. Alto (near Rome) to read and reflect. He was  leader of the Plymouth Brethren, a sect without ministers (MIRACLE IN THE MOUNTAINS, Kane and Henry).  Martha Berry had to persuade him to be her architect. He declined initially, but finally decided that it was “the Lord’s work”, and agreed to do it. One story says that she once paid him $100, but later saw him at the post office sending the money to a charity, so she never paid him again. Boys who were students at the Berry School built the chapel, and it was dedicated on 11/11/1911.  The chapel has four side rooms that have been used for various functions over the years such as a store, library, music room and a prayer room. One of the rooms is still used as a prayer room.  The first 9 years the chapel was open, it had school desks instead of pews. 

Be sure to click and scroll the gallery photos below to get more information about this remarkable structure.  She will now survive for many more generations.

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