Soldiers Chapel is located in the Gallatin Canyon near the entrance to the resort community of Big Sky. Nelson Story III, member of a prominent pioneering family in the nearby city of Bozeman, commissioned the building in 1955 as a memorial to his son, Nelson IV, who died in World War II. As stated on a memorial plaque, this non-denominational chapel is dedicated to “Those immortal soldiers of the 163rd Infantry who, with courage and devotion, died in pain defending their country and the cause of freedom for all men.”
In keeping with the mountainous surroundings, Bozeman architect Fred Willson designed this chapel in the rustic building traditions of wild Montana. Battered buttresses and low walls of native fieldstone support peeled log walls and a prominent cross-gable roof, clad with rows of wood shingles and ornamented with peeled log work in the gable ends. Heavy wooden entry doors are set beneath a circular stained glass window depicting the hand of a deity from on high reaching down to an earthbound fallen soldier. A graceful spire rises atop the building, marking its location and giving a sense of lightness to an otherwise low profile building.
On the interior, the warmth of the log walls is accentuated by peeled log scissor trusses and the exposed pine boards that sheath the rooflines. The baptismal font was formed from an antique gold pan once used by a Story family ancestor. Multi-pane windows fitted into round-arched openings illuminate the chapel; at the rear, a single clear window frames a view of Lone Mountain, majestic in the distance.
Lone Mountain gave its name to the guest ranch at its base, established in 1910. The mountain was developed through the twentieth century for downhill skiing, with a major lift added up its face in 1955, the year the Soldiers Chapel was built. Television anchorman Chet Huntley founded the Big Sky ski resort there in 1973. Today the Soldiers Chapel stands before a backdrop of what has become the largest ski area and year-round mountain resort in the United States.
The Soldiers Chapel is open to the public from May through September.