Skinner Memorial Chapel is the heart of religious and spiritual life at Carleton, and the most prominent building on the Carleton campus. The chapel is a place of worship and interfaith dialogue for both campus and community. In a typical week, the chapel may host a Torah study group, a Christian vespers service, Buddhist meditation, a Labyrinth walk, an interfaith social justice meeting, and a campus convocation.
The chapel was built in 1916, fifty years after the College was founded, and was financed by a gift from Emily Willey Skinner. Her husband, Miron Skinner, had been a trustee of the college until his death in 1909. The chapel was one of nine buildings commissioned by President Donald J. Cowling between 1914 and 1928, all using the Chicago architectural firm Patton, Holmes, and Flinn. The building is of English Gothic Revival design, with a Latin cross shape and a tall bell tower. The interior has a dark wood ceiling with dark beams. It is one of five campus buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places (the others are Goodsell Observatory, Nutting House, Scoville Hall, and Willis Hall).
Skinner Chapel was constructed to face the town and not the campus, to symbolize the cordial relations between Northfield and Carleton, in accordance with the donor’s wishes. This orientation makes the rear wall of the chapel a backdrop for the Bald Spot, the heart of the Carleton Campus.
Extensive renovations to the chapel (as seen in the video below) took place in the summer of 2015, including adding air conditioning, new heating, lighting, sound system, and projection capabilities.
Because of the better temperature and humidity control, major renovations to the historic pipe organ became possible in 2018, along with adding a new carillon. During the summer of 2019, the interior stone was cleaned and repaired, new pews were built and installed, and a hearing assistance loop was placed under the flooring in the sanctuary.