Historic chapel to get major facelift

  • Published
  • By Kendahl Johnson
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

One of the oldest buildings at Hill Air Force Base is undergoing some renovations that will see it return to its former glory.

The original Hill Chapel, now located at the Hill Aerospace Museum, is getting a facelift, with renovations being done on the exterior building that will make the chapel more visually appealing and historical. 

“We are thrilled about this renovation project,” said Aaron Clark, museum director. “This chapel was a vital part of the base and its community in the 1940s and ‘50s, and we want to continue to preserve it and make it available for the community to experience and enjoy for decades to come.”

The chapel was originally built in late 1942. It was renovated in 1945 following a major fire, and again remodeled in 1948. It was replaced by a new base chapel in 1964, but continued to serve as an education building and additional office space until it was declared excess and scheduled for demolition in 1984.

Rather than see the building demolished, the museum's supporting organization, the Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah, agreed to fund the relocation of the chapel to the museum grounds and also provided some restoration work. When the Chapel was rededicated in 1989, it became a permanent part of the museum's Memorial Park.

In 2008, a major exterior renovation of the chapel was negotiated into the Enhanced Use Lease program, which allows the Air Force to competitively lease underutilized land to a private entity to be developed for commercial purposes. In exchange, the Air Force collects cash or payment in kind, which can be used to construct additional buildings.

Hill’s EUL was born when it became clear to installation leaders that an innovative solution was needed for infrastructure that could sustain mission growth. In support of the base, and in an effort to energize local economy, Utah legislation created the Military Installation Development Authority, or MIDA, to manage state grants for infrastructure and highway improvements near federal installations.

Because the chapel was removed from its original location, and it wasn't specifically associated with a historic person of event, it wasn't eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, but could still provide a valuable connection to the past. The EUL agreed to preserve the chapel and pay for necessary renovations.

“It’s important to make efforts to preserve history whenever possible,” said Anya Kitterman, Cultural Resource Manager for the base. “Much of the base’s historically significant buildings are behind the fence and can’t be accessed by the public, so having this building that the public can view and enjoy allows us the opportunity to share our culture and history.”

Exterior renovations on the chapel are expected to be done in July 2023, at which time it will once again be open for viewing and also made available for private events, such as weddings or memorial services.  Clark said no one should miss it, if for nothing else to feel like you are stepping back in time and to see its notable stained-glass window.

“A unique element and the focus of the interior of the chapel is its stained-glass window,” Clark said. “It is an exact duplicate of a memorial stained-glass window donated by the 384th Bomb Group to the Parish Church of St. James the Apostle in the village of Grafton Underwood, near Kettering, England, following World War II.”

In 1943, the 384th Bomb Group trained at Wendover Army Airfield in Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses for action in Europe in World War II. Grafton Underwood was near USAAF Station 106, home base of the 384th in the European theater of operations during the war.

For more information or to book an event at the chapel, call the Hill Aerospace Museum at 801-825-5817.