Members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in College Station on Sept. 8 rededicated their original 1938 chapel that has been restored and renewed thanks to the generosity of longtime member Margaret Ann Zipp. The restoration was dedicated to the memory of Col. Charles Willis Zipp, Margaret Ann Zipp's husband, who died in 2004.
The church was designed in the style of an English country church by Ernest Langford, head of architecture at Texas A&M from 1925 to 1957 and College Station mayor from 1942 to 1966. The church was built by J.H. Nash at a cost of $11,500.
The St. Thomas congregation moved into a larger sanctuary next door. The original church developed numerous safety and efficiency issues, including outdated electrical and mechanical systems, lack of electrical outlets, friable asbestos-cement roof tiles, poor lighting, acoustic problems and an organ with keys that stuck and inadequate pipes. In January 2012, a task force was named to plan the restoration of the chapel, with David Woodcock as chairman and Aimee Allen, Rodger Koppa, Beth Lawrence, Alva Niles, Bonnie Harris Reynolds, Chip Hill, Kathy Figueiredo and the Rev. Rhoda Montgomery. Eva Read-Warren of The Arkitex Studio in Bryan was hired as architect for the project. G.W. Williams Inc. was named general contractor and the organ and pipes were restored by Pipe Organ Technicians of Houston.
In October, the organ was moved to Houston for repair and the chapel was closed for the restoration. The original bell had cracked years ago and could not be repaired. So, a new bell cast in England in 1907 and never used was purchased and installed in a bell tower behind the church. The restoration included replacing all mechanical and electrical systems, restoring all the wood surfaces and a redesign of the robing and store rooms.
On Sept. 8, the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, ninth Episcopal bishop of Texas, dedicated the new bell and Zipp rang it for the first time. The congregation moved into the restored chapel for the dedication service. Special guests were Zipps' son, Albert Zipp, news anchor at WBOY-TV in Clarksburg, W. Va., and his wife, Raschell.
Church organist and music director Bonnie Harris Reynolds played the restored organ, accompanied by flutist Karen Pilant and the St. Thomas choir and handbells.
Following the 8 a.m. dedication, breakfast was served in the parish hall by the Community Life Committee, Tammy Tiner, Kenn Harding, Barry Coon and Don Dickson.