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Thorncrown Chapel in Arkansas - An AIA top 10 Architecture Building - 20th century

Updated on September 4, 2016

Inside Thorncrown Chapel

Just imagine meditating, resting, worshiping or even getting married here!
Just imagine meditating, resting, worshiping or even getting married here! | Source

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 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.

Thorncrown Chapel

Thorncrown Chapel surrounded by a wooded setting
Thorncrown Chapel surrounded by a wooded setting | Source
4 of my photos pieced together to capture this outside view of the chapel
4 of my photos pieced together to capture this outside view of the chapel | Source
Glass everywhere lets the outside seem to merge with the inside of the chapel.
Glass everywhere lets the outside seem to merge with the inside of the chapel. | Source
Looking up towards the towering trees.
Looking up towards the towering trees. | Source
Inside view of the chapel
Inside view of the chapel | Source
Another inside view...
Another inside view... | Source
And another inside view...
And another inside view... | Source
Looking up towards the ceiling...
Looking up towards the ceiling... | Source

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.

A markerEureka Springs -
Eureka Springs, AR, USA
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If you enjoyed this article, please PUT SOME STARS on it. Thanks!

5 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of Thorncrown Chapel

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Dave Powell,

      Thorncrown Chapel is truly a beautiful building. Nice to meet a fellow architecture lover. Thanks for the comment. Will head on over to your page now.

    • Dave Powell profile image

      Dave Powell 6 years ago from Winchester, MA

      Hi Peggy,

      Great photos and vids of one of my favorite contemporary buildings! I just put a poll up on HubPages that you might want to feed into... and linked the page to yours. I'd be very interested to see what a fellow architecture lover says!


      Dave Powell

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello kate,

      I know that feeling. When we sat for a while inside of Thorncrown Chapel one feels just like being in the midst of a woods which of course you are! All of that glass makes the wooded setting an integral part of the feeling of the chapel with nature shining at its best. What a great spot to be married!!! Thanks for commenting!

    • profile image

      kate 6 years ago

      My brother was married there several years ago and the chapel was truly inspirational. You had the feeling that you were sitting outdoors in the woods.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Lake of the Ozarks Vacation Rentals,

      We discovered Thorncrown Chapel when visiting Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This top ten AIA building sits just outside of that pretty town. Hope you get to see it in person someday. Thanks for the visit and comment.

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