Ferrum College Alumnus and Architectural History Expert Ed Chappell, Jr. ’69 Dies

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Ferrum College Alumnus and Architectural History Expert Ed Chappell, Jr. ’69 Dies

Dr. Ed Chappell, on right, at the Public Armoury in Colonial Williamsburg, 2010. Photo courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

On Saturday, July 25, 2020, architectural historian and Ferrum Junior College alumnus Edward A. Chappell, Jr. passed away at the age of 71. He leaves behind his wife Susan. 

Chappell was born in Farmville, VA on October 16, 1948. After graduating from then-Ferrum Junior College in 1969, Chappell earned a bachelors degree in history from the College of William and Mary in 1972, and then received his graduate degree from the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia. 

As a young architectural historian, Chappell traveled through Virginia and Kentucky, mapping and recording historical sites for the Virginia Landmarks Commission and Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources. In 1980, he was hired as the Shirley and Richard Roberts director of Architectural Research and Archaeology at Colonial Williamsburg. He and other historians added numerous buildings including Charlton’s Coffeehouse, the Public Armoury, and the Market House.

When Chappell retired in 2016 after 36 years of service, he held an endowed chair at the Architectural Research Department and continued to share his expertise with other historical preservationists at Monticello, Mount Vernon, Prestwood, Drayton Hall, the Historic Charleston Foundation, and Historic Annapolis. 

He was a world traveler, visiting countries like Russia, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Bali, China, Europe, and more. On his visits, he made drawings and notes of buildings and later donated them to the Virginia Historical Society. He imparted architectural knowledge to review boards for colonial Williamsburg as well as the College of William and Mary, eventually receiving the highest stewardship award as a token of the college’s gratitude. 

Former Ferrum College Board of Trustees Chair Bob Todd offered insight on Chappell’s informed yet unassuming nature: “If you met Ed, you would not assume he was an internationally known expert on architectural history. He was soft spoken and humble and never seemed to seek the spotlight. However, when engaging him about his area of expertise, one immediately recognized his mental energy and that he was someone with highly special knowledge and experience. He also possessed a wry sense of humor and an appreciation for life and inquiry. His passing will leave a huge void here in Williamsburg and beyond. We lose a lifetime of stored knowledge, not to mention a most wonderful, down-to-earth person.”

Read Chappell’s obituary in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, here.