Navy Yard Chapel Getting New Roof and Preserving History

by Navy Yard
December 1, 2023

Chapel of the Four Chaplains roof improvement project (2023)

The Chapel of the Four Chaplains at the Navy Yard is receiving some needed upgrades with the installation of a new roof and other cosmetic updates.

The project will cost approximately $380,000, with more than a quarter of a million dollars being funded through a through a Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) Local Share Account (LSA) grant and the remaining balance through PIDC.

The purpose of the DCED LSA program is to distribute gaming revenues through the Commonwealth Financing Authority to support projects in the public interest within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The Chapel of the Four Chaplains, which is operated by the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation, has been a landmark at the Navy Yard since its construction in 1942 and continues to serve the military and veteran community while emphasizing the need for interfaith cooperation and service. Transforming this building will allow its exterior to match the rich history it both contains and represents.

“The Navy Yard has deep connection to the City of Philadelphia,” said Kate McNamara, PIDC’s Senior Vice President at the Navy Yard. “Since PIDC acquired the Navy Yard on behalf of the City in 2000 [after the base closed in 1996], it has been especially important for us respect and preserve that history as we continue to move forward in developing it into a thriving business and residential community. Transforming the chapel will allow its exterior to match the rich history the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation works so diligently to maintain.”

The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation envisions a vibrant and thriving chapel, a focal point of the Navy Yard that regularly hosts religious services, weddings, and group meetings, a resource for those working in the area, and a draw for visitors and tourists from around the country.

“On behalf of the Chapel of Four Chaplains, board of directors, I want to thank PIDC for financing the repairs on the chapel roof. Not only does it look great, but it will help us protect the beautiful historic Navy Yard chapel into the future,” said Bill Kaemmer, Executive Director of the Chapel of Four Chaplains. “Our foundation has been fortunate to have been operating out of the chapel for the past 23 years. It is a special place to honor and serve veterans and also for the community to come visit and learn the history of the Four Chaplains story. We believe the chapel belongs to everyone who works, plays, visits, and eventually lives in the Navy Yard. The chapel has been the heart of the Navy Yard since its construction in 1942. Thanks again for preserving this historic building.”

The project removed the old roof and gutter systems and replaced it with new architectural asphalt shingle roof system, as well as a new gutter system. The old roofing and gutter systems deteriorated significantly over the years, leading to leaks that threaten the Chapel’s priceless historic artifacts and decreased its attractiveness as a tourist destination and event rental space.

About the Chapel of the Four Chaplains & the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation

The chapel itself is a historic building, constructed in 1942, but it was not the first home of the chapel of the Four Chaplains. The first chapel was opened on Temple University’s campus in the basement of the Baptist Temple located at 1855 North Broad Street as an interfaith memorial to one of WWII’s most inspiring stories: four Navy Chaplains, men of different faiths, gave up their life vests on a rapidly sinking Army transport so others might survive. On February 3, 1942, the USAT Dorchester was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Greenland, killing 672 of the 902 officers and enlisted men, merchant seamen, and civilian workers abroad. Nine years later, on February 3, 1951, President Harry S. Truman dedicated the first Chapel of the Four Chaplains; it moved to its new home – Building 649 at the Navy Yard – in 2001.

Today, the Chapel of the Four Chaplains serves as a resource and service linkage hub for veterans; they host Veteran Health and Financial Symposiums to help veterans connect to direct service providers. The Foundation has also worked to make the Chapel’s historical items accessible to the public. The chapel is also home to two 19th Century Torah scrolls, and historic items donated by members of the chapel’s Emergency Chaplain Corps, including debris from Ground Zero in New York City.

To learn more about how you can get involved with the Chapel of the Four Chaplains and the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation, visit

Chapel mid construction (1942)
Chapel illustration (pre-construction)
Chapel of the Four Chaplains (2023)
Chapel of the Four Chaplains roof improvement project (2023)