Friday, June 13, 2008

Three Chapels in Northwestern Arkansas

We may have told you that we were sitting deep in the woods for a week without any connection to the modern world. The blog posting you are reading was written about a week ago, and we have moved on to Missouri. Just thought you'd want to know.

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Imagine sitting inside a glass chapel deep in the woods, completely surrounded by nature’s splendor. In the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas, we found three such chapels – all within 50 miles of each other.
Our first was the Whitney Mountain Chapel a few miles south of Garfield, AR, which itself was not far from our RV Park in Eureka Springs. The chapel faces east, overlooking Beaver Lake, and each hour its carillon chimes echo across the lake.

The chapel was built by Bobbie and Joe Phillippe in honor of their parents. Both Joe Phillippe, Sr. and his son Joe, Jr. were ministers with a deep devotion to God, family, church, school and community services wherever they lived. The younger man and his sister opened the chapel in 1992. Today it is available for worship services, weddings, concerts, christenings and memorial services, as well as a serene place for visitors to rest and contemplate.

Our second visit led us closer to Eureka Springs. Just outside town stands the majestic Thorncrown Chapel, rising 48 feet into the trees and the sky. The wooden structure contains 425 windows and over 6,000 square feet of glass. It sits atop over 100 tons of native stone and colored flagstone. Thorncrown Chapel has been called “one of the finest religious spaces of modern times.” The American Institute of Architecture recently placed it fourth on its list of the top buildings of the twentieth century.

Thorncrown Chapel was the dream of Jim Reed. He purchased the land in 1971 to build his retirement home. Other people’s interest in the land and the view of the Ozarks led him to build a chapel in the woods to give wayfarers a place to relax in an inspiring way. The chapel opened in 1980, and since then, over five million people have visited this woodland sanctuary.

The third chapel was, in our opinion, the most graceful of all. The Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel was designed around the medieval Gothic arch, built not with the stone of Middle Ages, but with glass and steel of modern times. Thirty-one tons of steel join 4,460 square feet of glass to create an aura of strength, yet weightlessness. Sun and shadow from the surrounding pine and oak trees create a continuously changing interior.

Mildred Cooper was active in church and community, a postmistress and organizer of two Girl Scout troops, as well as a successful businesswoman. The chapel was built in her honor with the hope that visitors would feel inspiration and a sense of renewed spirit.
Much of the description of these chapels was adapted from a magazine article and from pamphlets provided to visitors. I certainly cannot claim authorship, but we surely agree with what is said. The author of the magazine article visited all three chapels in a single day; we saw them each on a separate day of … Our Life on Wheels.


  1. What wonderful settings for chapels! How could you not want to stay and take in all of creation!

  2. Wow! Beautiful chapels! I love how they truly embrace their location in the woods. Papa, as always, great pictures! You always know how to capture the images beautifully.

    By the way, Happy Father's Day Papa! Love you lots and lots!


    P.S. Love you lots and lots too, Gramma!

  3. Thanks for the photos, my daughter is getting married at the Mt Whitney Chapel in April 2011 and we havent found alot of pictures of it online and I found yours today Thanks for sharing , I will be posting her wedding pictures Thanks again


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