Constructed between 1855 and 1856, Geological Hall was designed in keeping with Ramée’s general plans for the Union campus and originally contained the College chapel, natural history museum, and library, as well as the College Treasurer’s office. Entered from South Lane, the interior was designed by Eliphalet Nott and Jonathan Pearson (College Treasurer and librarian) in consultation with architect William L. Woollett. The chapel was the site of mandatory morning services, previously held in South Colonnade, and for many years was the only space large enough on campus for student body meetings. It was thus at the heart of campus life.
Mrs. Perkins and her family frequently attended programs held in the chapel, conveniently located adjacent to her garden. On March 9, 1903, for example, she wrote, “There was a scientific lecture in the Chapel a few evenings ago on the subject of the new discovery, Radium.” Among other notable events she mentions in connection with the chapel are the installation of electric lighting in 1895, various literary lectures, a speech by theologian Lyman Abbott, a slide show, an exhibit of color photographs, funeral services for Union College Professor of Natural Philosophy John Foster, and Founder’s Day addresses, including one by her husband Maurice Perkins. Although Mrs. Perkins loved the plants that she grew along its outer walls, she thought of the chapel itself, which at the time featured rows of wooden theatre seats, as “bare and dreary” (October 20, 1899).
After the chapel moved to the newly constructed Memorial Chapel in 1925, the space quickly became known as “Old Chapel.” Over the years the building has continued to provide room for a wide variety of changing academic departments, administrative offices, student organizations and social spaces, as well as meetings and lectures.