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Chapel House left gutted by blaze

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When the Reverend Chris Hoyer turned up the road leading to Chapel House Sunday, May 26, his first reaction was “Well, it’s still standing.’

On May 26, a fire swept through the Chapel House, consuming the roof and three rooms in the building, but leaving the basic structure intact. The Chapel House, which was the last remaining structure from the Albany Country Club stood on SUNYA ground since the university’s inception.

The alarm was turned in by McKownville Fire Chief Ronald Jones, who noticed smoke rising from the trees while walking near campus. “It burned for almost a half hour before anybody called it in,” Jone told reporters.

Members of the Interfaith Collegiate Council Board, which owns Chapel House, could not say if the structure will be rebuilt.

“It was a heartbreak,” said Hoyer, the first Chapel House staff member on the scene. “When you got close, it was really obviously a burned out shell.”

Hoyer, who rushed into the still smoldering ruin to salvage three Torah scrolls, added “Inside it was worse. All the things we’d put together were gone; we’d invested a lot in that building.”

Regarding the Torah rescue, Hoyer said “Anyone of us would have done the same. I tried to think of things of value to each of us. That’s one reason Chapel House is so important, because we continue to learn from each other, sensitivity toward each others traditions and goals.”

“We lost all our prayerbooks and bibles,” said Jay Kellman, member of the Interfaith Collegiate Council Board, the corporation which runs Chapel House. “And almost all of our office supplies.”

For the present, the Chapel House staff is housed in B-54 of the Campus Center, while Kellman is working out of the JSC-Hillel office. They will occupy that office until August 23, “a week before the fall semester begins,” according to Director of Campus Life Jim Doellefeld, “which is when we have to move the Job Service and Don’t Walk Alone service back in.”

Doellefeld explained “Neither (Job Service nor Don’t Walk Alone) functioned this summer, so I put the office supplies in storage.” He added, “We need the week to clean up the offices and move them back in.”

Office space for the Chapel House staff during the 1985-86 academic year is “under discussion,” Doellefeld said. He has met with members of the staff, he said, but the extent of the meeting “was that they need to make arrangements for the fall.”

“We’re trying to find a location where Chapel House can move in,” Doellefeld said, adding that something the size of the former building was “simply not available on campus.”

“There is a commitment to make sure that the program is continued,” said board member John Hartigan. “The university has been very supportive.”

There will be a meeting of the board Tuesday June 18, according to Hartigan, to discuss options.

“A contractor was brought in to do a visual study,” of the building, Hartigan said adding, “the visual assessment is that it’s ‘pretty bad.'”

The corporation which ran Chapel House had the building insured, according to Hartigan, and the insurance company has made an initial assessment.

“I do not believe the coverage. . .will allow us to rebuild,” Hartigan said. “We would have to raise funds, which is one of the primary responsibilities of the board.”

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