Dobins Chapel is rescued from demolition, will soon be moved
by Geoff Folsom
March 02, 2013 11:43 PM | 3510 views | 4 4 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the Dobbins Chapel Foundation, from left, retired Brig. Gen. Scott Mikkelsen, secretary; adviser Mike Donahoo; Vice President Pete Bagley; President retired Col. John Powers, and adviser and retired Chief Master Sgt. Dick Roberts worked along with others to save the old chapel at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta to have it moved to the Clay National Guard Center.<br>Staff/Laura Moon
Members of the Dobbins Chapel Foundation, from left, retired Brig. Gen. Scott Mikkelsen, secretary; adviser Mike Donahoo; Vice President Pete Bagley; President retired Col. John Powers, and adviser and retired Chief Master Sgt. Dick Roberts worked along with others to save the old chapel at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta to have it moved to the Clay National Guard Center.
Staff/Laura Moon
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A small church has the go-ahead to make a move across Dobbins Air Reserve Base, following one group’s eight-year effort to save it from demolition.

The 4,000-square-foot Dobbins Chapel is being moved from near the entrance to the base, on Cobb Parkway just south of South Cobb Drive, 2 miles across the complex’s runway to the Clay National Guard Center. The move of the 60,000-pound building, scheduled for March 16 and 17, has been in the works since 2005.

The chapel has to be moved because Dobbins is looking to build a new road and parking lot where it has stood since 1950, said retired Air Force Reserve Col. John Powers, chairman of the nonprofit Dobbins Chapel Foundation.

“We tried our best to get them to build the road around it,” Powers said. “But they wouldn’t agree to that.”

As recently as January, it looked like the chapel might be demolished. But an anonymous donor came forward and pledged $80,000, allowing for the building to be moved.

Dobbins spokesman Capt. Patrick Simmons said that because Dobbins is a reserve base, it isn’t eligible for federal funding to move the chapel.

“We made every effort to find alternative dispositions for the chapel other than demolition,” he said.

Even though the chapel avoided the wrecking ball, it isn’t safe yet. In order to host religious services in the future, it must be brought up to military code, which the chapel foundation has been given a year to do. Members estimate it will cost another $50,000 to $100,000 to do that.

The chapel was originally built at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C. It was moved to Georgia and dedicated by Army Chaplain James O’Neil, famous for writing a prayer for good weather at the request of Gen. George Patton. The chapel has been used by men and women who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East, for services including weddings, funerals and retirement ceremonies.

“We use it for all kinds of things,” said retired Brig. Gen. Scott Mikkelson.

The group started looking for ways to save the chapel in May 2005, meeting every other month. They say they tried numerous ways to get funding to save the chapel.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Dick Roberts, an ex-officio member of the foundation, said they reached out to 24 local churches, but only the relatively small Elizabeth Baptist Church responded.

“I was surprised at that, considering the magnitude of some of the megachurches,” Roberts said. “Being that this is a military church, we thought they would want to help us out.”

Powers said he will be happy to have the ordeal with the chapel behind him.

“I’m retired — I do very little for a living,” he said. “I love the golf course. I am ready to get back to normal retired living.”
Comments
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Chief Norm Marous
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March 14, 2013
These wonderful historic buildings are in grave danger everywhere. I call them 'cookie-cutter' Chapels, because they were all built to identical specifications, so that they would be inexpensive and could be erected quickly, during a time when our military was expanding rapidly. Of the thousands that were built in the 1930's and 40's (on bases around the world, many of which have been closed) most of the buildings have already been demolished. We also had what I call 'cookie-cutter' theaters, orderly rooms, chow halls, day rooms and barracks; most of which are also gone. I have long been an advocate of preserving at least one of each (where they still exist) as museums and historical artifacts, so that future generations of troops can see and learn something of their predecessors lives. The buildings, in addition to historical value, can and should be used for events and services (If not moved maintaining them in place is relatively cheap). In the era when they were constructed, each unit (squadron/company) was self contained, with its own chapel, chow hall, theater, etc. The best example of that arrangement I have seen is Fort Lewis Washington’s North Post, where when I was there about 10 years ago, many of those unit areas remained in tact. Until the 1980’s we didn’t name buildings, but they were all numbered. I remember seeing Chapels at Ft. Lewis with numbers in the 30’s (i.e. Chapel #30). Their construction is remarkable, in that although they were intended to be temporary buildings (with all numbers beginning with ‘T’, i.e. ‘T-30’), they are still in fairly good condition 75 years past their planned service life. The Army Guard’s Camp San Luis, in California, also still has one in current use. When I arrived at Vandenberg AFB, CA (11 years ago) we still had two of these surviving chapels, one of which was demolished a couple of years ago. The remaining one here was renovated, just before I got here, but I live in fear that some short sighted 'leader' will try to eliminate it too, perhaps for a performance appraisal bullet. The Air Force is notorious for killing its own history... many thanks to those who are trying to preserve some of it. I will be sending a contribution to the Dobbins Chapel Foundation.
Col John Powers Ret
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March 19, 2013
Thanks Chief for your comment. Spending 30 years of my life helping take care of this wonderful chapel, I could not sit by and watch it meet a recking ball. Ours has a # but not sure what it is. We think it is under the asbestos siding.

The foundation members (all retired) are dedicated to making Her look good again.

John Powers,770-971-7822
Laura Armstrong
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March 03, 2013
Shame on the mega churches for not responding. Wow, that's a surprise.

Congratulations to these intrepid patriots, for their service and their efforts to save the chapel. I met with them seven years ago and their love for the old structure and its history was obvious. So glad it will be saved.
John Powers
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March 19, 2013
Thanks Loura for your comments. I was one of the ones you meet with seven years ago. You were the first one to do a story about the chapel. Thank you. The mega churches are going to get a second opportunity. John Powers
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