Story+ Project

Stone By Stone: Who Built the Duke Chapel?


Since opening its doors in 1932, the Duke Chapel has served as the spiritual and physical heart of West Campus. The magnificent space has been the site of convocations, inaugurations, musical performances, lectures, and more. The quad outside the Chapel has been a frequent place of community gathering, whether to celebrate a triumph or protest an injustice.

We know that the Chapel was designed by Julian Abele of the Horace Trumbauer firm, and Abele is now commemorated with the naming of Abele Quad outside the Chapel. But what are the stories of the workers who built the Chapel? The stone cutters, stone masons, carvers, roofers, stained-glass installers, and everyone else who worked in concert to construct this awe-inspiring structure in the midst of the Great Depression? Many of the names and faces have been forgotten, but they can be rediscovered in old ledgers and memos, in photographs and reports. Stone By Stone: Who Built the Chapel? (SBS) is a Story+ project that will resurface these names, faces, and stories, which are essential to both Duke and Durham history. Students in SBS will research primary source materials to identify as many names as possible. They will also look at wage variance, dimensions of race and class, and the social and cultural world of these workers.

The result of the SBS project will be a website that shares the students’ findings, and brings the names and stories of these individuals to light. In consultation with the client, the students will structure the website to best reflect the information they discover.

Undergraduate students should be curious about history and eager to learn the stories of the individuals behind the Chapel. They should have patience for reviewing many pages of documents and ledgers as they conduct their detective work in the Archives. They should be comfortable working collaboratively and dividing tasks with others in pursuit of a shared goal. They should be sensitive to the context in which these individuals worked and interested in understanding the broader story of labor during that time period. They should be creative and thoughtful as they construct a final website to tell the story of these forgotten individuals.

The graduate student who works with this program should have experience in archival or primary source research. Experience with historical financial records is a plus. The graduate student should enjoy working with undergraduate students and helping them put historical documents into context. The graduate student should be comfortable with writing for the public (as opposed to strictly academic writing) and be able to guide the students in their work on the website. Excellent writing and oral communication skills and a sense of humor are a must.

Special supplemental application materials: NONE

Project Sponsor(s): 

Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist

Duke University Chapel under construction in the early 1930's. Duke University Archives.


  • Archives
  • History