Rock Eagle Chapel restoration nears completion after last year’s fire

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Just shy of a year after an electrical fire gutted the interior of the building, the restoration of the chapel at University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s Rock Eagle 4-H Center near Eatonton, Georgia, is nearing completion.

A generous $200,000 gift from Illinois 4-H alumna and recently appointed U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler and an outpouring of support at the August 2019 Georgia 4-H Foundation Gala catapulted the restoration project’s fundraising effort past its $400,000 goal.

Loeffler, who grew up on a cattle farm, says her 4-H experience and 4-H mentors contributed significantly to her growth and development. The former CEO of Bakkt, a regulated, global ecosystem for digital currencies, Loeffler was also a member of the executive team at Intercontinental Exchange. She is also a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, the first women-owned professional sports team in Atlanta.

Georgia 4-H State Leader Arch Smith said the goal was set to restore the chapel to its original state with guidance from the original 1953 blueprints.

“We wanted to put it back as close as we could to the original, which actually costs more to do today than new construction,” Smith said.

The project cost, he said, is roughly $600 per square foot for the 2,000 square foot chapel. Fortunately, the center had stored the original lighting fixtures, which are now being modified with LED lights.

The chapel’s chimes, which have not been heard across the center for the past year, will soon be delivered through a “much smaller system with smaller speakers in the chapel’s steeple,” Smith said.

The stone walls of the structure were repaired with stones collected from the center grounds, the same stones used to build the original walls. The stained-glass windows are being replaced with windows designed by a contractor who believes his father constructed the original windows, Smith said.

“And, I think everyone will be pleased to know the chapel now has a sprinkler system that will turn on in case of fire,” Smith said. “The chapel is one of the symbolic icons of Rock Eagle 4-H Center. We continue to be thankful for the 4-H agent who first spotted the fire and called 911 and appreciate the quick response from the Putnam County Fire Department and university officials who also assisted us in the clean-up and restoration of the site.”

Georgia 4-H plans to officially dedicate the newly restored chapel at a ceremony set for June 28, during Georgia 4-H State Council. Rock Eagle 4-H Center, the largest of the five Georgia 4-H centers, hosts more than 70,000 visitors each year. For more on the Georgia 4-H program, go to www.Georgia4H.org.

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
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