Hospital hoping to renovate 135-year-old chapel

Published: Sunday, Nov. 18 2012 4:57 p.m. MST

The historic Holy Cross Chapel in the Salt Lake Regional Medical Center is in need of repair. Hospital officials are hoping the community will donate money to help pay for the necessary improvements.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It is a nearly forgotten treasure in downtown Salt Lake City. Inside Salt Lake Regional Medical Center sits a beautiful, old chapel now in need of repair.

The chapel had the same architect as the Cathedral of the Madeleine and like the cathedral, it has been a part of the Salt Lake community for more than a century.

Enter the Holy Cross Chapel and you know this is a place where people find peace. For more than 135 years, many have prayed for loved ones here. It has seen weddings and funerals and hospital patients of different faiths gather for weekly services.

"It's a wonderful place as a reminder of a spiritual connection that we all have with the divine and then with each other," said Chaplain Debra Hampton.

Dedicated in 1904, the chapel was originally part of Holy Cross Hospital, established in 1875 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. It was one of the first hospitals in the Salt Lake Valley. The chapel was named to the state historic registry in 1976.

The mural of angels in the choir loft tells the story of the chapel's beauty and reverence for the divine. But with a crack running from ceiling to floor, it also shows visitors its current state of deterioration.

The interior needs wall mural restoration, plus cleaning and repair of the art glass of 11 historic windows. Renovation will include new lighting, plumbing, electrical work and earthquake-proofing.

The exterior will undergo waterproofing of the foundation walls and belfry and repairs to the masonry.

"It's a special part that goes deep back into the community," said Jeff Frandsen, the medical center's CEO, "and we want to preserve that going forward to future generations. We felt that it would be a great idea to involve the community to have that ownership."

The Historic Holy Cross Chapel Foundation has created a $1.1 million fundraising initiative, and already people and foundations from a number of faiths have offered support.

Kim Wilson is the chairman of the Board of Trustees. His first wife, Vicky, spent the last several months of her life in Holy Cross Hospital. 

"This chapel was a place of refuge for me and my family during a very sensitive time in our lives. I came to love the chapel. I came to appreciate the blessings it came be in a life and in a community," he said.

"And when I noticed the cracks appearing, that threatened the integrity of this beautiful landmark, I sought out an opportunity to try to be a part of saving it and perpetuating its use, for hopefully another century or more."

Mary Lou Hansen, of West Jordan, remembers mourning in the chapel as a 3-year-old child.

"My mother passed away here, and I just wanted to find closure. There's a part of me that feels that she's still here. It's peaceful," she said.

Once the funds are raised, the renovation is expected to take at least a year.

For more information about the renovation and to donate, visit www.holycrossrestoration.com.

E-mail: cmikita@desnews.com

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