Designed by architect Scott Merrill, The Chapel at Seaside—also known as the Seaside Interfaith Chapel—has served as an architectural landmark in the Seaside community since 2001. The 68-foot bell tower marks the highest point in Seaside and serves as a beacon of spiritual unity throughout the community. The chapel is located prominently within the town of Seaside at the head of the town’s center, Ruskin Square; it serves as the terminus to the town’s primary axis. The Seaside Interfaith Chapel was also accepted into the permanent Historic American Buildings Survey archive in the United States Library of Congress September 2018 and received the National American Institute of Architecture Honor Award in 2004.
Historic American Buildings Survey
In 1933 (during the Depression) the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) was established as a national repository for drawings and photographs of early American architecture. Measured drawings, black-and-white photography, color transparencies, photo captions, and written history pages serve to document a range of building types, engineering technologies, and landscapes which chronicle some of the historic structures in the U.S. The HABS reports are housed in the Library of Congress and are intended to be a snapshot of a structure as built and as existing at the time of its recording characterizing the building in both architectural and building technology terms, as well as the significance of a building within a national context.
The Chapel at Seaside’s board members sought to achieve the HABS heritage designation knowing that the documentation standards for quality, content, format, and durability could assure that future generations would be able to consult federal preservation records. The lengthy and tedious work to develop the documentation took two years to complete and was conducted in concert with students in the Historic Preservation and Community Planning Program of the College of Charleston under the direction of R. Grant Gilmore III, Ph.D., RPA.
In 2018, our HABS submission was accepted and is now part of the permanent collection of the Library of Congress. We believe The Chapel at Seaside is among the youngest buildings ever accepted into the Library of Congress repository, which suggests that a building does not need to be old to be worthy of the heritage designation. A plaque on The Chapel reflects the heritage designation and the pride we have within our community for achieving such.
Our thanks to Scott Merrill (architect), Robert Davis (who donated land for The Chapel at Seaside), the Historic Preservation and Community Planning Program of the College of Charleston, and to the founding members of The Chapel at Seaside. Their contributions to the civic and spiritual life of our Seaside community are valued and appreciated by many and now documented in the Library of Congress in perpetuity.
To learn more about The Chapel’s architecture and history, visit the Seaside Research Portal here.
About Seaside, Florida
Seaside, Florida, was created by founders Robert S. Davis and Daryl Davis and the architectural planners at Duany Plater-Zyberk. Its plans were finalized in 1985, making it one of America’s first New Urban communities based on the principles of walkability, community, and environmental preservation. Seaside has been featured in architectural lectures and studies around the world. It is visited by hundreds of architects, design professionals, and students every year and hosts the annual Seaside Prize architecture awards. Many people might also recognize the town from the 1998 film The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey, and Truman’s House is still a popular landmark on Natchez Street. In 2012, the American Institute of Architects’ Florida Chapter placed the community on its “Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places” list of the state’s most unique and beautiful buildings and towns.