The need for a chapel larger than the one in College Hall had long been felt.
Not only was it impossible to assemble there for any purpose the whole college community...but the size of the room also prevented an increase in enrollment, desirable as that was for educational and financial reasons. The students adopted a new chapel as their cause. ...When the students presented their plans to the Trustees, William S. Houghton had been impressed by their earnestness and wished to help them as on many other occasions he had quietly supported the college.
- From Wellesley College 1875-1975: A Century of Women
In 1896, a gift of $100,000 was made for a new chapel, donated by Miss Elizabeth G. Houghton and Mr. Clement S. Houghton, in memory of their father. The William S. Houghton Memorial Chapel was designed by Heins and La Farge, the architects of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, and dedicated on June 1, 1899.
Since its dedication on June 1 1899, the historic Houghton Chapel has served as a center of community life at Wellesley College. The Chapel has also provided a critical venue for College ceremonies and traditions, for concerts, lectures, and other performances. For nearly the entire history of Wellesley College, Houghton Chapel has afforded the community a spiritual space, which supports and complements the pursuit of intellectual excellence and personal growth. As indicated by the three keys given to each president of Wellesley College as she takes office (to the library, the dormitory, and the Chapel), the Chapel reflects the College’s commitment that the education of the whole person—intellectually, relationally, and spiritually—remains at the core of the mission of the institution.
In the spring of 2008, renovations were completed to Houghton Chapel including the restoration of the upper Chapel and the creation of the new Multifaith Center on the first level of the building. The Multifaith Center is a global center of learning and discovery for all people; a place for prayer, meditation, study, worship, and education. By adding new sacred spaces to our existing facilities in the Chapel and Hillel Lounge (Billings Hall), the Center provides spaces for regular gathering for all of our religious communities including Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical), Hindu, Humanist, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Native African, Native American, Quaker, Sikh, and Unitarian Universalist groups. The Center is also home to Wellesley’s nationally recognized programs in Religious and Spiritual Life including Beyond Tolerance, which engages community members in programs on interfaith understanding, dialogue and conflict resolution, and Education as Transformation, which offers opportunities for constructing meaning through spiritual reflection and practice.