Former United Methodist Children’s Home chapel purchased by Decatur

The Moore Chapel, built in 1906, at Decatur’s Legacy Park. Bill Banks file photo for the AJC
The Moore Chapel, built in 1906, at Decatur’s Legacy Park. Bill Banks file photo for the AJC

During her state of the city address Tuesday night (Jan. 28), Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett announced that the Gothic Revival Moore Chapel, formerly a centerpiece for old United Methodist Children’s Home, has been purchased by the city.

According to City Manager Andrea Arnold the transaction for a nominal $10 occurred earlier this month between the city and former UMCH, now called Wellroot Family Services in Tucker.

The city purchased the 77-acre UMCH property for $40 million in August 2017. That contract stipulated that the UMCH retain ownership of the chapel and the land immediately surrounding it through a separate nonprofit corporation. At that time the UMCH envisioned Moore Chapel remaining a place of worship while also available for family functions particularly for alumni.

But Arnold said that last November Wellroot notified its intention of “transferring” the chapel property, and according to the 2017 sale’s closing documents, Decatur had the right of first refusal.

“I’m not sure right now exactly how we’ll use it,” Arnold said Tuesday. “But it gives us more opportunities for special events on the property, like weddings and family reunions.”

It also gives the city ownership of every building on the site now known as Legacy Park. During a 2015 study a group of Kennesaw State University students identified 19 UMCH buildings as contributing resources for a potential historic district. Seven of those 19 buildings were built between 1903 and 1919, including Moore Chapel, built in 1906 and one of the four oldest surviving buildings (the Methodists originally purchased the land in 1873).

Placed on the highest point of a hill, the chapel is made largely of granite, retains its original stained glass windows and original children-sized pews.

In December 2018 the city approved a master plan for Legacy Park, and last month approved a more specific “comprehensive site plan” that mostly defines housing goals for the north and south side.

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