Duncan Memorial Chapel

Explore the History

When Alexander E. Duncan’s wife, Flora, died in 1936, their home was in Baltimore, where he had founded the Commercial Credit Company 24 years earlier. But his thoughts went back to the time of their marriage in 1900 and to the place where they spent their first three years together, Crestwood, Kentucky, 18 miles northeast of Louisville.

And because he was reared on a farm nearby, Mr. Duncan knew that in the village of Floydsburg, a mile southeast of Crestwood lay the rolling grounds of one of Kentucky’s oldest cemeteries. There, as a memorial to his wife, he built the Duncan Memorial Chapel in 1936-37, at the same time enlarging and landscaping the cemetery as a memorial to his grandfather, William Wesley Duncan, and to that branch of the Duncan Family, of which Alexander E. Duncan was the only surviving male member with the family name. The Chapel was dedicated on October 24, 1937. Flora Ross Duncan was buried in the Chapel’s chancel; upon his death in 1972, Mr. Duncan was buried beside her.

The architectural style chosen for the Chapel by Louisville architect Fred H. Elswick was Early English Gothic, with transept and nave. The Chapel and the wall around the Cemetery are of native stone, gathered from old fences on the surrounding countryside. Mr. Duncan chose a boyhood friend, D. J. Abbott, and his firm, Abbott-McMillan Company of Louisville, for the Chapel’s construction. Mr. Abbott died in the midst of the work. In 1958 Mr. Elswick died and was interred in the Cemetery near the Chapel.

Inside, cut Indiana limestone lines the Chapel walls; the roof and floor are of slate. Sandblasted white oak forms the pulpit, benches, rafters, arches and porches. A carving representing Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” on the altar is the work of F. Pecosta of Waukegan, Wis., who learned his craft in Oberammergau, Germany. A grapevine design typical of Early Gothic architecture is carved into pews, lectern and pulpit. Henry Lee Willet of Philadelphia executed the stained-glass windows; before installation, a portion of one was selected by the Rockefeller Foundation to be shown at the 1937 Paris Exposition as an outstanding example of stained-glass work in America.

An electric organ with vibrato is installed in the Chapel. And there is a Schulmerich Carillon which sounds the Westminster Chimes each hour 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily, then strikes the hour.

Heavenward from the Chapel roof rises a needle-like fleche, or spire; and a shining cross at the top symbolizes Mr. Duncan’s desire that all Christians use and find comfort in this sacred place.LEARN MORE

DUNCAN MEMORIAL CHAPEL

Our History

  • 2017

    Present Day Services

    It was Mr. Duncan's hope that the Chapel would be an active community force, available for services, weddings, funerals, musicals, and meetings. Weddings have been taking place at an average number of 200 a year in recent years.

  • 1989

    Floydsburg Cemetery Expands

    Floydsburg Cemetery Expanded by purchasing the adjoining David Wakefield farm.

  • 1972

    Retires from Commercial Credit Company

    Mr. Duncan founded the Commercial Credit Company; it became the country's second-largest firm of its kind. He retired as it chairman prior to his death on February 9, 1972 and was buried beside his wife in the chapel.

  • 1958

    Architect Fred H. Elswick dies

    The architectural style was chosen for the Chapel by Louisville architect Fred H. Elswick, who upon his death was interred in the Cemetery near the Chapel.

  • 1937

    Stained Glass Featured

    Henry Lee Willet of Philadelphia executed the stained-glass windows; before installation, a portion of one was selected by the Rockefeller Foundation to be shown at the 1937 Paris Exposition as an outstanding example of stained-glass work in America.

  • 1937

    Chapel Dedicated

    After his wife's death, Alexander returned to the village of Floydsburg, a mile southeast of Crestwood, surrounded by the rolling grounds of one of Kentucky's oldest cemeteries. There, as a memorial to his wife, he built the Duncan Memorial Chapel in 1936-37, at the same time enlarging and landscaping the cemetery as a memorial to his grandfather, William Wesley Duncan. The Chapel was dedicated on October 24, 1937. Flora Ross Duncan was buried in the Chapel's chancel.

  • 1900

    Mr. Duncan gets married

    On April 11, 1900, Mr. Duncan married Flora Ross of Louisville, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Alonzo J. Ross of Louisville. They then moved to Cincinnati, then to Baltimore.

  • 1799

    Cemetery Land is set aside

    William Boulware set aside three-quarters of an acre at Floydsburg in 1799, thus founding one of Kentucky's oldest cemeteries, and 19 years later he and Charity Boulware added another acre. They and other members of their family are among those buried in the Cemetery's older section.