Thorncrown Chapel in Arkansas: An AIA Top-10 20th-Century Building

Updated on May 20, 2019
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, facing north from entrance.
Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, facing north from entrance. | 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 Chapel, which is an AIA top-awarded building for the 20th century.

The discovery of this uniquely designed chapel that sits amidst a wooded area outside the town of Eureka Springs delighted my mother and me 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. It is rated as one of the top ten buildings of the 20th century. It is the number four position in the top ten, and we could see why after visiting it.

Just imagine meditating, resting, worshiping or even getting married here inside of Thorncrown Chapel.
Just imagine meditating, resting, worshiping or even getting married here inside of Thorncrown Chapel. | Source

A school teacher by the name of Jim Reed bought the lush and wooded property intending to build a home there. Many people kept visiting that spot and remarking upon its natural beauty.

Mr. Reed then began thinking that it would be wonderful to be able to share it with more people. Thus began his 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.

Thorncrown Chapel
Thorncrown Chapel | Source

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; 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 in 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. Finding this special chapel was one of the unexpected pleasures of our traveling there.

Thorncrown Chapel is a nondenominational 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. 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. Although the building and grounds were donated, gifts from visitors help to defray maintenance and upkeep of the site.

Thorncrown Chapel
Thorncrown Chapel | Source

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. 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 a 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.

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.

Traditional Hymn of Worship and Adoration

This last video above was arranged by College of the Ozarks student Walker Boldman and performed by the College of the Ozarks Chorale (Dr. Bruce Gerlach, conductor; Marsha Goldsmith accompanist; Walker Boldman, violin). Portions recorded at a live concert, Thorncrown Chapel, Eureka Springs, AR.

Thorncrown Chapel

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Eureka Springs:
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Questions & Answers

    © 2009 Peggy Woods

    Comments are welcomed.

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      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        8 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 

        8 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!

        Sincerely,

        Dave Powell

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        8 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 

        8 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 imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        9 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.

      • profile image

        Lake of the Ozarks Vacation Rentals 

        9 years ago

        How did you come across this beautiful place. It looks so peaceful. I would love to visit. Thank you for sharing this treasure!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        10 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Hello shamelabboush, Yes...that is what makes it so very special. Nature seems to be an intricate part of it surrounding it outside every window. Contributes to the feeling of peace and serenity. Thanks for your comment.

      • shamelabboush profile image

        shamelabboush 

        10 years ago

        It's a nice looking modern chapel and the thing that it is located amidst the woods is amazing.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        10 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Jama, My mother and I only spent 2 nights there so did not get to see everything in the area either. This just happened to be one of the things that we did get to see and we both loved it. Yes......kudos to Jim Reed! Thanks for the comment.

      • JamaGenee profile image

        Joanna McKenna 

        10 years ago from Central Oklahoma

        Wish I'd known about Thorncrown the only time I was in Eureka Springs (1997). What a wonderful, unselfish man Jim Reed is to not keep this spot in the woods for himself. And how inspired to make it blend in with the trees. Looks so peaceful and serene. Thanks so much for sharing this.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        10 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Hello Linda / Pink Lady,

        WONDERFUL spot to commune with nature! That area of the country in general is so beautiful. Let's go sometime!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        10 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Hello Paper Moon, Thanks.

        Hello kiran, You are most welcome. It really is beautiful and so unexpected in the middle of the woods. Thanks for commenting.

      • profile image

        Linda / Pink Lady 

        10 years ago

        Peggy, this is delightful and would be a great place to visit and commune with nature.

      • kiran8 profile image

        kiran8 

        10 years ago from Mangalore, India

        Lovely spot, thanks for sharing :)

      • Paper Moon profile image

        Paper Moon 

        10 years ago from In the clouds

        :)

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        10 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Hello Elynjo, Glad that you liked this and found it fascinating. Thanks for the comment.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        10 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Hello Melody,

        Happy to share this most natural of places with you. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Elynjo profile image

        Elynjo 

        10 years ago from Sin City

        Wow! This is different. Fascinating! Thank you for sharing.

      • Melody Lagrimas profile image

        Melody Lagrimas 

        10 years ago from Philippines

        What a lovely and scenic chapel, thanks for sharing it, Peggy.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        10 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Teresa,

        Vastly different no doubt! The cathedrals in Europe are something else entirely. Many of them were built in a time frame that spanned several centuries. Will have to check London Girl's hub out. Thanks for commenting.

      • Teresa McGurk profile image

        Sheila 

        10 years ago from The Other Bangor

        The natural setting is beautiful -- but I'm a bit hesitant about the chapel, having just come from LondonGirl's hubs on the cathedrals and churches of London. A bit different!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        10 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi again Rochelle, It truly is a beautiful part of the country. I'll put our impressions of Eureka Springs into another hub. Would enjoy going back sometime.

      • Rochelle Frank profile image

        Rochelle Frank 

        10 years ago from California Gold Country

        No, I realized that it would not have been there at that time.

        It is a lovely area.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        10 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Rochelle, There is a good reason you would not remember it. The chapel was constructed in 1980 so it would not have been there when you visited Eureka Springs. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Rochelle Frank profile image

        Rochelle Frank 

        10 years ago from California Gold Country

        Thanks for sharing this special lovely spot. I had not heard of this before. Visted Eureka Springs once in the 60's and don't remember it too well, except that we dined at a "log cabin" restaurant that was very good. We also visted a small Catholic church which was very lovely as well with a large natural stone stairway.

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