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Thorncrown Chapel in Arkansas - An AIA top 10 Architecture Building - 20th century
Inside Thorncrown Chapel
Thorncrown Chapel in Arkansas
Eureka Springs is an inviting town in the State of Arkansas, but the pleasure extends beyond its boundaries. One of the discoveries that my mother and I made while on vacation there a number of years ago was the strikingly beautiful Thorncrown Chapel...an AIA top awarded building for the 20th century.
The discovery of this unique designed chapel that sits amidst a wooded area outside the town of Eureka Springs delighted my mother and I when we traveled that way in September of 1995.
Little did we know until visiting the site that the American Institute of Architecture awarded this building a Gold Medal in 1990 and rated it one of the top ten buildings of the 20th century. In fact, it rates the number four position in the top ten, and we could see why after visiting it.
Jim Reed, a school teacher, bought the lush and wooded property intending to build a home there. As many people kept visiting that spot and remarking upon its natural beauty, he began thinking that it would be wonderful to be able to share it with more people.
Thus began the idea of erecting a chapel on that site that could be opened to every person living nearby as well as travelers to that area of the country.
He enlisted the help of a top architect by the name of Mr. E. Fay Jones who had studied under the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
Mr. Jones had already established world renowned credentials of his own and delighted in this project.
Just as his mentor Frank Lloyd Wright would have done, Mr. Jones used native materials of the area in the design and completion of this chapel which blends into the surrounding woods as though it was an intrinsic part of the scenery.
The Thorncrown Chapel rises 48 feet into the air and steel tresses, native woods, stone from the area and much glass was utilized in creating this gem of a chapel. The wooded area just outside the many windows makes one feel as though one is part of the natural scene.
I have always loved nature and a woods surrounded a portion of the property that my grandparents and parents owned in Wisconsin when I was growing up.
My brothers and I often walked in the woods and the softness of the ground underfoot and the quiet sounds muffled by the trees and plants along with the earthy smells are memories I carry inside of me no matter where we have lived since that time. So this wooded setting with this chapel that seems to blend into the surrounding area truly struck me as being extra special. Obviously other people think the same.
Prior to visiting Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I had never heard of Thorncrown Chapel.
One of the wonderful aspects of travel is getting to know more about different areas of the country or world in which we live.
Eureka Springs will be addressed in another post. It is a wonderful place well worth a visit! Finding this special chapel was one of the unexpected pleasures of our traveling there.
Thorncrown Chapel is a non-denominational chapel and everyone is welcome to visit.
A minister lives on the grounds and is available to talk to people if they wish.
Sunday services are held there and had we stayed in Eureka Springs on a Sunday, I would very much have liked to attend a service just to experience one in that special setting.
A donation box is at the back of the chapel and although the building and grounds were donated, the gifts from visitors helps to defray maintenance and upkeep of the site.
The use of Thorncrown Chapel for weddings can be arranged and a fee for this availability is charged. I can't imagine a more natural or beautiful setting in which to begin a life of wedded bliss.
The acoustics inside this chapel are great, so the music whether that of the wedding march or the voice of a soloist would reverberate off of the glass and other hard surfaces and sound lovely.
My mother and I sat in the seats inside the chapel for a while and simply absorbed the quiet beauty of the woods outside the windows.
Being in the middle of a woods, the hustle and bustle of life in town or a city seems to dissipate like the morning mist rising from the ground.
Life seems to slow down and the hush and quiet of the people respecting the Thorncrown Chapel as a place of worship or meditation adds to the relaxation one feels when being in that atmosphere for a while.
Knowing that Thorncrown Chapel has won all these top U.S. architectural awards and is considered to be one of the top ten buildings for the 20th century is interesting.
In my opinion the intricacy of design yet simplicity of elements that have it blending into the surrounding wooded area almost like a translucent mushroom might have grown up in that spot are what make this chapel stand out from the rest.
Until one gets close to it by walking through the woods, one would not even see it from a distance.
The trees and plants growing there enshroud it with the natural beauty of God's own hand.
Video showing photos of Eureka Springs, countryside and Thorncrown Chapel
Eureka Springs, Arkansas where Thorncrown Chapel can be found.
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© 2009 Peggy Woods