The University Chapel is the oldest public building in the city of Auburn. Built as a Presbyterian Church, the first service was held in the original Greek Revival-style building on September 13, 1851. Edwin Reese, spiritual leader of the tiny congregation, had the bricks made by slaves on his plantation. The founder of the town, Judge John J. Harper, gave the land. The first minister was the Rev. Albert Shotwell. The small church has seen several renovations over the years, and dramatically changed in appearance from Greek Revival to Gothic style. Originally the church had two entrances, one for men and one for women. The church building has served many purposes, and played an integral part in the town's history. In the 19th Century it was used as a Confederate hospital, a meeting place for the first Episcopal congregation, and in 1887 when the main building burned at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, the college used the building for a temporary classroom. By 1917, the Presbyterian congregation with over 100 members, moved to their new building on the corner of Gay and Thach. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Department of the Interior, National Park Service, May 22, 1973.
In 1921, the Alabama Polytechnic Institute acquired the building which had been renovated in a Gothic style around 1900. Until 1926 it served a variety of social functions housing the U. S. O. and later the Y.M.C.A.-Y.W.C.A., giving it the long time sobriquet the "Y" Hut. On July 27, 1926, the Auburn Players made their debut performance and until 1973 it was the University Theatre. In 1976, after extensive renovation designed by Professor Nicholas Davis, the old church re-opened as the University Chapel, an interdenominational, multipurpose building. During renovation, the hand-made trusses, girders and joists, slotted and pegged together, were discovered. The new ceiling was built above this wooden network to highlight this original feature. The new entrance doors are replicas of the originals, as is the steeple. The beautiful old bricks were cleaned, repaired, and a new layer of mortar put into the joints. Landscaped walkways, and curving brick walls were all added. Funds for the project were given by the E. L. Spencer, Jr. family. It stands today as a blend of the old and new, a reminder of Auburn's religious, academic, and social history.