If it seems downright miraculous that a small, wood-framed church, deep in the woods of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, would be named one of the 20th Century’s great buildings by the American Institute of Architects, maybe it’s only fitting. The building, Thorncrown Chapel, is, after all, something of a miracle in itself.
Designed by E. Fay Jones, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Thorncrown was commissioned by a private citizen (school teacher Jim Reed), who owned property on which he envisioned a meditative rest stop for tourists trudging through the woods for views of the Ozark mountains. Jones, who absorbed Wright’s Prairie School teachings, but none of his mercurial temperament, created an unequivocal jewel: a frame of dazzlingly intricate latticework, sourced from Ozark timber; walls of glass; and a simple flagstone floor—a breathtaking sanctuary that seemed to have risen up from the land itself. Thorncrown opened in 1980, rapturously celebrated by the architectural establishment, universally embraced by Arkansans.
Recently, Thorncrown Chapel has garnered less reverent attention. The Southwest Power Company (SWEPCO) has proposed a 48-mile-long high voltage transmission line across the state that threatens the sanctity of Thorncrown’s pristine landscape. A petition aimed at thwarting the proposal can be signed here.
Photos: Thorncrown Chapel