On June 12, 1910, the “old” Cadet Chapel that had served the West Point community since 1836 held its last service and then closed its doors. A procession of cadets, faculty, and staff walked up the hill behind the barracks and held a dedicatory service for the “new” Cadet Chapel. Since that day, the Cadet Chapel has served as a focal point of service, worship, and community unity at the United States Military Academy for a hundred years.
One of the great features of the Cadet Chapel is its magnificent pipe organ, considered one of the largest in the world. First installed in 1911 with the help and vision of Colonel Hugh Scott, the superintendent at the time, the organ has been a major part of the chapel ever since. Initially the organ had 2,406 individual pipes, but now it has 23,511, the highest number of pipes of any organ in a religious edifice. The increasing number of pipes have been purchased mostly through donations of former cadets, classes, and family members. Donations have also paid for several different organs in the chapel. In 1920 the first organ console was replaced with a second, and in 1950 by a third. That organ, the current console, is now an artistic and historic feature in itself.
Not only is the chapel a house of worship, but also it has become a place of memory and honor. Hundreds of stained glass windows represent religious, military, and academy themes. The classes from 1802, the founding year, through 1976, the national bicentennial year, are represented in these windows.
With the end of mandatory chapel attendance at West Point in 1972, the religious community at the academy has diversified and gained a more egalitarian character. Multiple chapels now exist throughout the campus, serving different religious groups, all with the same purpose of promoting integrity, moral behavior, and a connection with the divine.—Sherman Fleek