Thursday, August 19, 2010

Evergreen Chapel at Camp David

Evergreen Chapel

In 1991, the Evergreen Chapel was dedicated by President George H.W. Bush. It was built using funds raised by a nonprofit corporation formed by Kenneth Plummer, president of the National Lay Leaders Association of the United Methodist Church.

The Wagner Roofing website acknowledges the role that their founder's wife Evelyn Murray played in the construction of the Evergreen Chapel:
"Evelyn was instrumental in the fundraising for the beautiful non-denominational Chapel constructed at Camp David during the Reagan Administration. Evelyn delights in relating the history of the Chapel, discussing its design and recalling the marvelous dedication ceremony that she was able to attend. She even owns some of the stained glass used in the Chapel. "
President Reagan made the first contribution of $1,000 and selected the site location within Camp David. The rustic octagonal building made of wood and stained glass can seat up to 150 people.

The chapel's faceted and stained glass windows were created by Rudolph Sandon, an Italian immigrant who came to the U.S. after World War II and wanted to donate the windows "because America had been good to him".

The window on the side of the chapel where the President sits is the "Tree of Knowledge" and includes the presidential seal, a dove, a sheaf of wheat, and other symbols. On the opposite side of the chapel is the "Tree of Life". The symbols were designed to be open to interpretation by people of varying faiths.

The Tree of Knowledge (Rudolph Sandon)

The Tree of Life (Rudolph Sandon)

Kenneth Plummer, Rudolph Sandon, President and Mrs. Bush on the day of the dedication. (4/21/1991)

Additional details about the history, architecture and windows of the chapel can be found in this Evergreen Chapel pamphlet.

Architectural drawing of the Camp David Chapel

The chapel bell is from the USS Endicott, a Navy destroyer launched around the same time that President Roosevelt established Camp David (which he originally named "Shangri-La").

The pipe organ has two keyboards and 827 pipes ranging in size from 6 inches to 20 feet tall.  The organ was built by the Moller Pipe Organ Company of Hagerstown, MD. The chapel also has a Yamaha grand piano. You can read more about the Camp David organ in the Pipe Organ Database.

President Bush at the dedication service of the new Camp David chapel - April 1991

The Evergreen Chapel holds two weekly Sunday services. The 8AM Catholic mass is performed by contract priests from Mount Saint Mary's University. The Protestant service follows at 10 AM and is performed by the Camp David chaplain. The chapel is open to the 400 military personnel serving at Camp David along with their families.  On average, around 50-70 people are in attendance.

In 1992, the first wedding ceremony was performed at the chapel when Dorothy Bush LeBlond exchanged vows with Bobby Koch.

President Clinton wrote in his autobiography about his last trip to Camp David :

"Don Henley gave us a wonderful solo concert after dinner in the Camp David Chapel. The next morning was our family's last service in the beautiful chapel, where we had shared many services with the fine young sailors and marines who staffed the camp and their families.

They had even let me sing with the choir, always leaving the sheet music in Aspen, our family cabin, on Friday or Saturday so that I could review it in advance."

President George W. Bush and his family attended the Christmas Eve candlelight service at Evergreen Chapel for all eight years of his administration.

The Bush family at an Easter service at the Evergreen Chapel in 2006

President Bush greets military personnel outside the Evergreen Chapel - April 2006

According to press secretary Robert Gibbs at a White House briefing in December 2009, President Obama has attended church fairly regularly up at Camp David where "he's comfortable in and has enjoyed attending."

11/25/2013 Update:  Camp David is seeking a new music director for the Evergreen Chapel

View of Evergreen Chapel from the road

Close-up of the stained glass window inside Evergreen Chapel

Google Maps Earth view of Evergreen Chapel at Camp David

Sources: The President is at Camp DavidMy Life: The Presidential Years; Camp David Tour; George Bush Presidential Library; The White House; US Navy;; GPO; Peabody Institute; Google Maps; @SylviaCarignan; The Times Leader; Barbara Sandon Norris


  1. What a lovely chapel and how wonderful the President and the military families can share service! I never knew...

  2. I don't understand what religion the services are for.

  3. look at the cross mate.This is a church..Since most americans are Christians and since all the presidents as of now were Christians,it is not a surprise

    1. The cross is portable. It isn't there in the dedication photo. The one photo with a cross seems to be set up for Catholic Mass.

  4. It's a nondenominational Protestant Christian service, led by a military chaplain (as of 2010, Lieutenant Carey Cash). The image near the top from 1991 was a special, crossdenominational service with apparently Catholic, Orthodox, and Episcopalian services held for the dedication. Those services are few and far between (possibly none since the 1991 dedication), with most just using the assigned military chaplain.

    I assume either this Chapel or another building is used when there are dignitaries from non-Christian, or Orthodox/highly Catholic nations staying at Camp David. That's something the Secretary of State's office would have to work out.

  5. is this chapel a roman catholic chapel

    1. It is nondenominational Christian

    2. Since the cross is only present in one of the photos, I'm not sure it is specifically Christian. I assume that an ark could be brought in, or any other items.

  6. Do you know who the current Camp David chaplain is for April 2014?

  7. This was a real treat for me, especially the photos. I'm actually the one on the left holding the 'We The People' panel in the the studio in Little Valley NY. As contractors we were not able to see the panels installed and until now had never seen a full view of the two walls of glass. I cut 99% of the glass with a tile saw mounted in the studio window. Thank you, Lee

    1. That's wonderful - I'm glad you came across this blog post and wrote your comment. The stained glass in that chapel is a real treasure.

    2. I have a stained glass widow made by Rudolph Sandon. It's signed by Mr. Sandon and dated 1949. I would love to know more about it could you help me

  8. That stained glass was really a treasure. It brought a lot of good memories to the people living there.

  9. My name is Lee Williams. The comment above made on June 17, 2017 at 10:15 PM is mine. It was a true honor to have worked with Dr. Sandon and to have been involved in this project. I am now living in Lockport NY, home of St. Johns Church, another commission of Dr. Sandon's dalle de verre work.I am now documenting the restoration of the Flight of Five locks here in Lockport through my photography.

  10. Hello! May we have permission to use one of your photos of the stained glass windows for a post about a new book from Rabbi James Rudin?

    1. Please email me at and let me know which photos you are interested in using. Then I can give you some direction on how to proceed.