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History

Preserve historic traditions

The years following the Civil War marked a renaissance for the United States Navy. Secretary of the Navy William C. Whitney reorganized the bureaus, rid the fleet of antiquated vessels and began rapid construction of modern steel ships. This revitalization included the expansion and enhancement of the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

While one of the Chapel’s signature trademarks is its copper clad dome, the original dome was once covered with elaborate terra cotta decorations, giving it the appearance of a frosted wedding cake

As the 19th Century drew to a close, Colonel Robert Means Thompson of the Class of 1868 commissioned renowned architect Ernest Flagg to design a complete transformation of the Academy. Flagg’s work and its monumental Beaux Arts style resulted in the 10 core buildings that still make up the heart of the Naval Academy Yard, including its iconic centerpiece, the Naval Academy Chapel. Built over 10 years at a cost of $10 million, the Chapel quickly became known as the “architectural crown” of Flagg’s design.

While one of the Chapel’s signature trademarks is its copper clad dome, the original dome was once covered with elaborate terra cotta decorations, giving it the appearance of a frosted wedding cake. After a 15-pound chunk fell off in 1928, the terra cotta was removed and the dome covered in copper.

Nearly 90 years later, the copper remains, but time has taken its toll. Preliminary repairs in 2018 revealed much greater deterioration than anticipated, requiring full replacement of the entire copper covering. But plans are in place to allow the historic copper to live on in heirlooms made available through the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association.

See the Heirlooms »