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picture of trinity chapel

How It All Started

In 1875, three families residing on farms near Wheaton consulted with Bishop William E. McLaren regarding the establishment of an Episcopal Church. In June of that year the first services were held in the Universalist Church, located on the site of the present DuPage County Historical Museum at the SE corder of Main and Wesley, which was rented for $1 a Sunday.


Six years later the small congregation was ready to build its own church and a lot at West and Wesley streets was purchased for $300. The cornerstone of the new church was laid by Bishop McLaren on December 18, 1881, and despite severe winter and spring weather the Church – now Trinity's historic chapel – was built. The total cost of the building and materials was $3,763.35. This is the oldest church building in Wheaton in continuous use.


 picture of chapel altar


The Chapel

The architectural style of the original chapel is a “stick” style commonly referred to as “Prairie Gothic.” This was common in buildings built from 1855 – 1900, the style is informal and relaxed. Other characteristics of the style and this building in particular are:

  • The tall portions and high roof, hinting of a Swiss chalet
  • Steeply pitched gable roof with cross gables
  • Exposed framing that is non-structural is superimposed on the clapboard siding
  • Gothic style windows

The architects were Treat and Folts and the builder was Henry Dann Compton. The windows were furnished by W.H. Wells and Brothers.


Inside you will notice the handsome open-timbered ceiling. Cross beams were installed in 1919 to counter spreading of the walls. The interior is finished in oiled pine and stained walnut. The chapel's layout is reminiscent of a late medieval village church. This “neo-medieval” design was the result of the Cambridge Movement which advocated the restoration of earlier ecclesiastical architectural forms and traditions to the Anglican Church. The church was originally heated by a large stove and lighted by kerosene lamps placed on wall brackets throughout the structure.


Over the years additions and improvements have been made to the building. In 1894 a Kimball pipe organ was purchased for $1000.00 and installed in the front of the church and was later replaced by a small electric organ. At the same time electric lighting replaced the kerosene lamps and a partial excavation of the basement was completed to install a furnace to replace the wood stove. The current chandelier light fixtures were added in 1926. Their Gothic arch shape echoes most of the building's windows.


In the late 1950's the existing main church building was added that seats 428 people and provided additional classrooms. At this time the decision was made to retain the original church building. The chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 which coincided with the centennial celebration of the founding of the church.


In 1997 an extensive $1.8 million renovation and expansion project extended and modernized the parish hall and classrooms in the basement.


The chapel has several exquisite stained glass windows.


 picture of great west window


The Great West Window

Despite its name this window is on the geographic East wall opposite the altar. It is also referred to as the Drummond Memorial. Thomas Drummond was a founder of Trinity and a federal judge. Inscribed with “I Believe in the Communication of Saints the Resurrection of the Body and the life Everlasting,” as well as other references to The Trinity. Subtle leaf vine patterns suggest the energizing, renewing power of nature. Other images include a crown encircling a cross, an anchor, and shamrocks - the plant's three leaves symbolizing The Trinity.







 picture of rose window


The Trinity or “Rose” Window

This was a gift from W.A. Shearson. What appear to be chalices connect the outer forms to the center circle which features a Star of David and a clover leaf in its center. The Star of David has been identified as signifying the unity of heaven and earth, and the conscious and unconscious.



 picture of chancel window

Chancel Window

This window as a gift of Mrs. J.S. Peironnet, depicting the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion. James Peironnet was mayor of Wheaton from 1893-98 and 1901-04. The wheat and grape motifs represent the bread and wine of The Eucharist. The symbols of Alpha and Omega represent the Beginning and the End.






 picture of resurrection angel


Resurrection Angel

This was a gift from the Drummond family that features an angel with a trumpet. It is made in the “Tiffany” style, incorporating art nouveau influences popular in the late 19th century. The shades of brown and ochre compliment the tones of the wood walls and accents.






 picture of easter lily window

Easter Lily

This window is dedicated to the memory of the father of Mrs. J.S. Peironnet. In addition to the floral images, this window features a triangle encompassing an eye. The eye is suggestive of the omniscience of God.









 picture of centennial window

Centennial Window

This was a gift from Mr. And Mrs. Fred Ockerland in 1975. It was designed by Karl Hackert Studios in Northbrook, Illinois and made in Innsbruck, Austria. A figure of former rector Rev. Frank Hobart Millett represents all the priests who have served Trinity. Also featured are Bishops Montgomery and Prim of the Diocese of Chicago and the Most Reverend Arthur Michael Ramsey, the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Ramsey came to Trinity during the centennial celebration in 1975.