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Rollins Chapel: Sacred and Profane

Rollins Chapel’s solid exterior requires no cosmetic cleaning, even though the building is 128 years old. But does this tour group knows the best story about the place? Back in the age of parietals — strict rules about when female visitors could be in the dorms — Rollins was open 24 hours per day. It seems that when visiting young ladies were unable to find late-night private time with their gentlemanly Dartmouth hosts, Rollins was used as a venue for, um, trysting. At a certain point, President John Sloan Dickey ‘29 had had enough of the profane in a sacred place, and he announced that the College’s home for ecumenical worship would be closed at night. The justification? “More souls have been conceived in Rollins than saved there.”


Addendum: In the manner of the Hovey murals, Rollins has had its own minor controversy regarding forbidden art. The Chapel has numerous Christian-themed stained glass windows dedicated to past Dartmouth Presidents. As Noah Riner ‘06 tells it:

In 1964, renovations to Rollins Chapel resulted in concealment of five stained glass windows commissioned for the chancel area of the Chapel. These windows depict Christian figures, given in honor of past Presidents of the College. Former Dean of the Tucker Foundation Richard P. Unsworth had the windows covered in the face of the declining spiritual interest in students. According to George Hawthorne, former College Architect, Unsworth’s idea was that by concealing the windows, students would be more attracted to the chapel.

The stained glass windows have a rich history and are of the finest quality; their artistic value alone made their restoration imperative. Accordingly, the college authorized the uncovering and restoration of the presidential windows in 2006. The windows can be covered when necessary for artistic or religious reasons.

Oh! the things that they’ve seen.


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