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.

Project Sponsor(s): 

Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist

Graduate Mentor(s): 

Hannah Ontiveros, PhD Candidate in History


Jacob Satisky, Caroline Waring, Gretchen Wright


archival photo of duke chapel under construction
Roof construction at Duke Chapel.
 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library / Duke University Archives

The team created the website “Stone by Stone,” which tells the stories of laborers and craftsmen who built the Duke's chapel and some of its West Campus buildings, stone by stone.

Frank Stasio interviewed project sponsor Archivist Valerie Gillispie and participating Duke undergraduate student Caroline Waring about Stone by Stone on WUNC's The State of Things! Listen here


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


  • Public Humanities
  • Archives
  • History

Skills required

  • Collaborative Work
  • Community Engagement
  • Interviewing & Oral History
  • Website Design
  • Working with Primary Sources & Archival Research
  • Writing & Editing