Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Washington Chapel)

The church's distinct architecture was influenced by the Salt Lake Temple.

The Washington Chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons, was constructed in emulation of the church’s temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, but retains its own unique style that makes it stand out from its 16th Street NW neighbors: National Baptist Memorial Church and All Souls Unitarian Church. The chapel, constructed from 1932 to 1933, utilized birds-eye marble native to Utah, blended elements of the Salt Lake temple and modern Classicist-style architecture, and design components to tell the story of the church throughout its interior and exterior. Its architects, Don Carlos Young (grandson to Brigham Young) and Ramm Hansen, were both members of the church, adding to the attention to detail in showcasing the church’s history. The church expanded the Mormons’ footprint in the DC area, and continually grew through much of the 20th century.

When the church property was first purchased, the congregation had approximately 300 members. In order to accommodate their needs, the chapel’s floor plans included a gymnasium, a kitchen and dining area, meeting rooms, a cultural hall, and even a full-size apartment. The chapel would allow its congregants to use it however they saw fit, and the construction progressed quickly. However, the path to acquiring the land would not be so smooth. When the church approached the land owner, Mary Foote Henderson, on purchasing the property, numerous outlets (including other religious ministers) attempted to dissuade her from selling to the church. Reasons included decreased property values, negative stigma surrounding the church’s ideology and practices, and logistical issues for their design plans. Despite the pressure, the transaction went through.

With the chapel completed and the congregation expanding over the decades, more Mormon chapels and meeting houses were constructed throughout Maryland and Virginia to accommodate the growing suburban population. The Washington Chapel, with its distinctive steeple towering over 16th Street at Columbia Road, increasingly catered to young congregants because of its location. After four decades at this location, though, the church decided to let go of the property in favor of its other locations outside of the city. The building sat vacant from the last service in 1975 to the purchase of the building in 1977, but the change in ownership hit a hiccup before settling in with its current owners. The original buyer, the Columbia Road Recording Studios, only kept the building for one day before reselling it to Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon.

The Unification Church took ownership of the building and altered the original structure in order to fit the church’s needs, such as retrofitting the gymnasium, expanding the balcony, and other interior changes. The exterior of the building, however, remains mostly original, but its condition has severely deteriorated with time. The birds-eye marble of the exterior did not handle the humidity of DC well, with the prolonged contact from automobile exhaust fumes – certainly not helped by the chapel’s location at a busy intersection – also contributing to its corrosion. At the time that the Mormon church vacated the building, a report assessed the necessary repairs to the building at almost $500,000. Adding to the damage, the 2011 earthquake in DC necessitated repairs to the exterior, with damaged stones being replaced and careful restoration services provided. Since purchasing the building, the Unification congregation has continued hosting services.

DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
Within Meridian Hill Historic District



2810 16th St NW, 20009