As a place of respite and reverence, Vivian Webb Chapel serves its community well. It is a Webb rite of passage to present a senior chapel talk before one’s teachers and peers in the Vivian Webb Chapel, and it is the place where the news of historic and monumental worldwide events are shared—some with great wonder and excitement, as when Dr. Howard M. Fish, Jr. announced in April 1961, that the Russians had successfully sent a man into orbit and returned him safely to earth, and others with gravitas including the days after September 11, 2001, when students read from scriptures and spoke of forgiveness.
So much of substance and wonder has been discussed in the chapel that it is almost easy to overlook the intimate details that imbue the structure with personality, historic verities and beauty.
Dr. Thompson Webb, the school’s founder, built the chapel himself with the help of students and faculty. The building, with its symmetrical arches and signature bell tower, is modeled on the 18th century mission at San Juan Capistrano, and was constructed of more than 60,000 simple 60-pound adobe bricks that were mixed, shaped and dried on campus. The first brick was laid in 1939 and the building was completed in 1944.
“Vivian and I built this school to teach children the finest qualities of character above everything else, then the desire for learning and excellent scholarship. We built this chapel as a proper place for the teaching of virtues that represent the finest character, honesty, dependability, trustworthiness, strength to do one’s duty, courage to uphold the right and fight for it,” wrote Thompson Webb in the 1950s. “To acquire these virtues, we must continually keep them in mind and work for them.”
It is the singular place on campus that brings comfort, challenge, peace, and refreshment to the entire community. From within and without, the chapel exudes an organic beauty; its structure was crafted with love and earnestness, and its adornments symbolize and honor the Webbs’ deep faith.