Flanders Field American Cemetery & Memorial, Chapel, Wortegemseweg 117, Waregem, West Flanders (Belgium), BEL
Significance: Flanders Field American Cemetery & Memorial is one of eight overseas World War I cemeteries designed and administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), a federal agency created in 1923. During the 1920s Flanders Field became part of a larger effort to create lasting and impressive memorials to the American war effort in England, Belgium, and France. The practical necessity of burying American soldiers who died during the conflict was first handled by the War Department through the Office of the Quartermaster General's Graves Registration Service (GRS). GRS architects had already established the basic form of Flanders Field Cemetery, with a brick wall around a roughly rectangular site and the main access road oriented diagonally from the corner gate. The gate with carved stone pylons and a handsome brick Superintendent's Quarters were built by the War Department during 1923-24.
Like the GRS, ABMC was required to consult with the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in creating permanent memorials overseas, including redesigning the existing War Department cemeteries with memorial chapels and other features. ABMC hired prominent French-born American architect Paul P. Cret as its consulting architect in 1925. Cret guided every aspect of the ABMC memorial program from finalizing locations and selecting architects to inspecting construction and making maintenance recommendations. Cret also personally designed the Chapel and revised site plan for Flanders Field, with this construction taking place between 1928 and 1930. Cret placed the Chapel at the center of the revised central lawn, creating a new focal point for the site that incorporated the original placement of grave plots around the four sides.
The octagonal stripped classical Chapel sits on a pedestal-like terrace at the center of the sunken central lawn. The exterior is ornamented with inscriptions in three languages (English, French, and Flemish) and small bas reliefs by French sculptor Alfred Bottiau representing History, Grief, and Remembrance. The Chapel also features an elaborate marble interior with a mosaic tile ceiling. Through Cret, the architecture and landscapes of the ABMC display a sophisticated Beaux Arts Classical approach, with the Art Moderne details and forms that characterized some of the best civic architecture of the 1920s and 30s.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N88
Survey number: HALS US-7-B
Building/structure dates: 1928-1930 Initial Construction