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Walton Prayer Chapel: A place of new and old

Ecclesiastes 3:1 states, “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven” (NKJ). Indeed, Walton Hall has had its seasons; it has gone from grand mansion to the center of a college. One particular room in Walton Hall especially has had its seasons: The Walton Hall Prayer Chapel.

The Prayer Chapel actually was first created as a billiard, or game room. When Charles S. Walton Sr. collaborated  with expert architect Knickerbacker Boyd on what types of rooms should be included in his grand home, called Walmarthon, it was decided a game room would be added to the house. When the house was finished in 1913, the game room was a central place for the Walton children to entertain their friends. Mr. Walton himself did not often play games or pool, but rather, he wanted to create a place that his family could escape to. John Baird states in his book, The Great House, “He (Boyd) made the Walmarthon billiard room masculine, medieval and modern. In a sense this area combined the features which gave the house its distinctive charm.” Mr. Walton’s sense of humor can be seen on the walls of this room for above the fireplace there is a colorful characterization of two people playing chess. Personally, this is probably my favorite characteristic of the room.

The season of Walmarthon being a welcoming home ended with Mrs. Walton’s passing in 1931. Even though one season ended, another one was coming.

Eastern Baptist College bought the estate in 1952 and the main house on the property was converted into the college’s center and by the 1970s, what was once the game room had been turned into a prayer chapel. Another season had begun at Mr. Walton’s Walmarthon.

Sitting in the room, it does convey the feel of a small chapel. This is probably why the room was converted to a chapel in 1971 (with funds donated from the Second Baptist Church and Congregation of Philadelphia). Sitting in its stillness, it is a peaceful room. This room is a place to reflect upon the past and present. It is where the new meets the old. Its high vaulted ceiling, woodwork, and leaded glass windows gives the room uniqueness, unlike any other place on Eastern’s campus. Many students over the years have come to this room and bowed their heads. Students will come and students will go, and yet, this quiet place never changes. For 100 years this place has stood the test of time and it has seen many students through trials.

The plaque on the Prayer Chapel wall, which dedicates the room, states, “May this be the place where our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ becomes a reality to each of you who worships here.” I believe this sums up the meaning of the Prayer Chapel.

So seasons change, people come and go, and yet, some places never really change. Such is the case of the Walton Prayer Chapel. It is reminiscent of gone days with its rustic character. It has been used for many purposes, for many events, and by many people. When you step into the room, it is like stepping back to a simpler time; there are no projectors, T.V.s or computers. It is a refuge, where you can escape, contemplate, and pray.

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