Whitefield United Methodist Church, formerly Hunter Chapel
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Relocated Hunter Chapel
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Relocated Hunter Chapel, interior view
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Bill Palmer marries Savannah sweetheart in orginal Hunter Chapel
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Present day interior of Whitfield United Methodist Church, formerly Hunter Field Chapel
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Hunter Army Airfield Garrison chaplain, Maj.
Jon Wilson, examines the chapel interior with
Dr. Grover Bell, Whitefield UMC pastor, and
remarks at its pristine condition. Wilson said
the architecture and layout of the chapel models
that of the Dobbins... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

The original Hunter Field Chapel, valued at $28,000, was built after

the Army Air Corps received approval to build Hunter Field in August

of 1940. The installation served as an operational training unit for

several years and became the final staging base for B-17 crews on their

way to the European Theater of Operations in World War II. The Army's

Eighth Air Force was activated at Hunter Field during that period.

The chapel was decommissioned in 1946 after the war and sold to

the Savannah United Methodist Church Board of Missions, rumored,

for only $1.

Today, 70-years later, members of the Whitefield United Methodist

Church are proud of their WWII heritage. The church's pastor, Dr.

Grover Bell, said he imagines that many young Soldiers from the Eighth

Air Force visited the Hunter chapel on their way to combat and prayed

fervently for their safe return.

During the 1940s era, military installations expanded rapidly to

meet the demands of the WWII buildup, according to nationalinfantrymuseum.

org. After the war, the original Hunter Chapel and other

"series 700" temporary buildings were surplus-ed by War Assets

Administration; however, some WWII wood buildings were so solidly

constructed, they remained in use through the 1990s. Some WWII

chapels, like the Hunter Field Chapel, are still in use today.

The National Infantry Museum has preserved an almost identical

chapel to the original one at Hunter as part of the World War II Company

Street exhibit at Fort Benning, pictured at nationalinfantrymuseum.


To prepare for the move into Savannah, the Hunter Field Chapel

was split into two separate structures and transported on trailers to

its new location--four new lots purchased by the Savannah Methodist

City Mission Board at 55th Street and Waters Avenue, according to Dr.

Grover Bell, the current Whitefield United Methodist Church pastor"The move was possible in those days

because we didn't have power lines that

would interfere with the transport," said

Bell. "At that time, DeRenne Avenue was

just a dirt road."

A Savannah Evening Press article,

April 14, 1948, stated there were "many

difficulties too numerous to list," during

the move, set up and remodeling of the

chapel performed by its sponsors at the

Savannah Methodist City of Board of

Missions. After overcoming those obstacles

and a lot of hard work, the first worship

service was held in the church for

its new congregation on Oct. 10, 1948.

Savannah Morning News also commented

on the chapel move in an article

dated Monday, October 11, 1948.

"Real enthusiasm was expressed by

the congregation at the good shape they

found the church. Many said that after

seeing the building when it was moved

from Hunter Field last spring, they never

expected it to be as attractive as it is."

"I can imagine how it must have

looked after being cut in half and the

hauled over dirt streets to its present

location," said John Pigott, an 89-yearold

WWII veteran, who is still an active

member of the church. "Also we don't

know how long the Chapel may have sat

unused on the Base."

Whitefield church history cites that the

name 'Whitefield' was chosen as the

church's name by the congregation early

on but would only be official after the

chartering, which took place January 30,

1949. Church founders chose the name

of The Rev. George Whitefield, a close

friend of The Rev. John Wesley, the founding

father of Methodism, because of his

evangelistic work in the community,

including his establishment of the

Bethesda Home for Boys in Savannah.

The original charter members who established

the church totaled 164; today, there

is only one surviving member.

Attendance has also dimensioned.

Bell said that several years ago, membership

peaked at approximately 600 members

but today it has dwindled to 135.

Hunter Army Airfield Garrison chaplain,

Maj. Jon Wilson visited Whitefield

UMC and remarked at the building's

pristine condition. Wilson said the architecture

and layout of the chapel models

that of the Dobbins Air Force Chapel,

where he was previously assigned.

"The chapel is designed to be multidenominational.

It was probably used

for both protestant and catholic congregations,"

said Wilson. "Just like the

Dobbins chapel, there is a station behind

the alter where the Catholic priest stands

which is separate from the pulpit where

the protestant preacher stands."

Wilson noted that the simple, clean

lines of the war-type chapel are still

intact at Whitefield and the design mimics

other chapels still in existence since

the 1940s.

"The original siding is still here but

it's painted," he said. "The light fixtures

have been upgraded and the alter railing

looks like the original."

The heart pine pews match the

church's original décor but they're not

the original ones, according to Pigott.

"The backs on the original pews were

straight boards and a lot less comfortable,"

he said.

Bell, the 85-year-old pastor who has

ministered at various churches during

his 63 years of service, said there are

many life changes surrounding the history

of Whitefield UMC church.

"Some are good and some are bad,"

he said. "Our lives have become busy

and complicated; the whole idea of religion

has changed in our society. We have

reached out to neighbors and invited

them to attend but we haven't gotten

much interest in recent years. Children

in surrounding neighborhoods attended

in the past but now they have grown

up and moved away. Many of our neighbors

choose to attend larger churches

with a younger congregation and contemporary


At the church's 25-year celebration,

G. Richard Korn, Whitefield UMC pastor

at that time, said the church was young

with many years of growth to follow. The

previous year, The Rev. Jacob Lackey said

"Let us stand at the front of the battle

for Him who died for us … that the years

may be more glorious years of service."

Just like aging Soldiers, church parishioners

at Whitefield United Methodist

Church don't want to retire. They want

to stay in the battle for Christ and bring

light to the world.

"We live in a safe, stable community,"

said Bell, about the church's location.

"We have open services and open communion.

We welcome children and

adults from all races and backgrounds

to come join us in worship."

Methodists and those not affiliated

with the Methodist denomination may

rent the church chapel for weddings and

ceremonies. If interested in church attendance

or in renting the chapel, call for

additional information at 912-355-8420.

Related Documents:

Hunter Field Chapel while located on Hunter [PDF]