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Davis Memorial Chapel

Since its completion in 1956, Davis Memorial Chapel has provided a beautiful setting for solace and meditation within the facility of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Egbert Lawrence Davis, Sr. served as the first Chairman of the North Carolina Baptist Hospital Board of Trustees, beginning in 1922. His tenure on the Board lasted for twenty years. During that period the hospital grew from 80 to 300 beds and became affiliated with the Bowman Gray School of Medicine. Mr. Davis graduated from Wake Forest College School of Law in 1904, and went on to a 21-year career with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. He was a co-founder of Security and Life Trust in 1922 (later Integon Insurance) and formed Atlas Supply Company in 1925. He was also a trustee of Wake Forest College, and was involved in the move of the College from Wake Forest to Winston-Salem in 1956. His wife, Annie Pearl Shore Davis, took an active role in the early days of the hospital, leading the Baptist Hospital Women’s Auxiliary, and becoming the face of the auxiliary as she delivered beautiful flowers from her own garden to patients.

In 1942, Mrs. Davis was admitted to Baptist Hospital due to complications from asthma. Her condition worsened, and she passed away in the hospital. As a result of this tragedy, the Davis family realized the hospital lacked a private place for families faced with difficult circumstances. That experience provided the inspiration, under the direction of Egbert L. Davis, Jr., to build a Chapel in memory of Mrs. Davis and in honor of Mr. Davis, Sr.

World War II and other hospital building projects delayed construction of the Chapel, but ground was broken on August 12, 1953.

The site of the Chapel is to the right of what was the main entrance to the hospital on Hawthorne Road. Construction began in August 1954, delayed further due to the lack of availability of Indiana limestone. Dr. Ralph Herring gave the address during the Cornerstone-Laying Ceremony on September 10, 1955. He said that the inspiration of the gift of the Chapel would “stand as a tribute of love and respect to a family whose name is inseparably linked with the progress and expansion of the hospital from the days of its beginning.”

Construction on the chapel was completed in 1956, and the Chapel was dedicated March 23, 1957.

The Chapel was built in Tudor Gothic style and is rich with symbolism. Images of medical science, health care, and Christian charity are abundant in stone, glass, and wood.

The bronze medallion set in the center of the Narthex floor reflects the essence of the structure. A heart of love and charity is in the center; above the heart is the name of Hippocrates, the founder of medical science. Surrounding the heart are the four shields of Religion, Medical Science, Nursing Care, and Knowledge. The medallion is framed by Italian Vert Issorie marble, Vermont slate, and a Tessera marble mosaic. The narthex walls are of Italian Botticini marble.

Inside the Chapel, the walls are Indiana limestone and the floors are of slate from Vermont. Oak has been beautifully carved to form the altar, pews, and arching beams overhead. Antiqued silver light fixtures hang from the vaulted ceiling. The stained glass windows recount the story from the Twenty-third Psalm. The large stained glass window behind the altar was made in Exeter, England, and portrays the ministries of Jesus Christ. The ceiling panels feature symbols from Bible scriptures, from the Creation Story through the life of Christ and the call to evangelism to future generations. Interspersed among the Biblical images are paintings of the flowers Mrs. Davis cherished in her own garden. Mrs. Davis was particularly fond of dahlias, and one can find several varieties of dahlias represented in the ceiling panels, including Jersey Beauty, Jane Cowl, and Pompon. The pipe organ was built by the Schlicker Organ Company of Buffalo, New York. The Chapel seats 120, and has been the site for weekly worship, music performances, recitals, weddings, and memorial services.

Davis Memorial Chapel conveys the important link between body and spirit, medicine and faith. This haven of comfort and peace is a lasting tribute to a family that devoted so much to the Medical Center as well as to the community at large.

References

Meads, Manson and N. Katherine Davis. The Miracle on Hawthorne Hill: a history of the Medical Center of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University and North Carolina Baptist Hospital. Winston-Salem: Wake Forest University, 1988. 11, 14-16.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Dorothy Carpenter Medical Archives Vertical Files, Davis Memorial Chapel:

The Davis Memorial Chapel of the North Carolina Baptist Hospital and the Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest College. Booklet.

The Davis Memorial Chapel, North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Pamphlet.

Hardy, Clyde T. Oral History Interview with Egbert L. Davis, Jr. January 19, 1979.

“Refuge from the storm: Davis Memorial Chapel celebrates 50 years.” Topics. North Carolina Baptist Hospital School of Pastoral Care. Fall 2007. 1, 7.

Twin City Sentinel [Winston-Salem, North Carolina], “Cornerstone Is Laid For Chapel At Hospital,” September 10, 1955.

Winston-Salem Journal, “E.L. Davis Sr., Civic Leader, Dies at 92,” August 29, 1974.

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