By Kelly Wise Valdes
Burrowed deep amongst the oaks, pines and maple trees in the Arkansas Ozarks, Thorncrown Chapel soars 48 ft. into the sky. This stunning wooden and glass structure is considered one of the “finest religious structures of modern times.” It boasts 425 windows and over 6,000 sq. ft. of glass and sits above 100 tons of colored flagstone, making it blend perfectly with its setting. Thorncrown Chapel was the dream of Jim Reed, a retired teacher and Arkansas native. In 1971, Reed purchased the land to build his retirement home. The view from the property was so amazing that people would often stop to view the beautiful Ozark hills. Reed felt increasingly led and inspired to build a glass chapel in the woods to give visitors a place to reflect.
Reed arranged a meeting with architect E. Fay Jones, and friend and protégé of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Jones began to design the chapel and on March 23, 1979 the construction crew broke ground on the mountainside.
However, midway through the construction, expenses grew and soon the project came to a halt. Reed desperately tried to raise the necessary funds to complete the chapel to no avail.
One night, Reed went down to the half-finished chapel. Oddly enough, Reed was not a religious man, but he fell to his knees in the chapel and prayed for an answer. The moment was a revelation that ultimately led him to a relationship with Christ that would change his life. Three days later, Reed received a loan that was enough to cover the construction costs.
On July 10, 1980 Thorncrown Chapel opened. Since then over six million people have visited the amazing chapel. It has won numerous architectural awards including ranking fourth on a list of the top buildings of the 20th Century by the American Institute of Architects.
The architecture was based on Sainte Chappelle in Paris. Its dimensions are 24 ft. by 60 ft. and is made with all organic materials to fit its natural setting. The only steel in the structure forms a diamond shaped pattern in its wooden trusses. In order to preserve a natural setting, no structural element is larger than what two men could carry through the woods. Because of the chapel’s windows, its appearance changes during each hour of the day and during the different seasons of the year. The chapel is located outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas and is free to visit. For information, visit www.thorncrown.com.