We thought we had seen some lovely towns before today. Galena IL comes immediately to mind. But yesterday was special. We fell in love with Eureka Springs AR.
This town has the usual 19th century therapeutic springs history. But its location and topography make it extra interesting. It was “discovered” by hippies and artists in the 70’s, and a funky sense of tie-dye still reigns, but doesn’t overpower this town – with only one fudge shop. The late 19th and early 20th century buildings that fill the town meld together nicely and create a good architectural energy.
It’s a very nice mix of retail shops appealing to moneyed tourists, art lovers, the psychedelic set, and those who are interested in history. There is a vertical aspect to the town that reminded us of little pockets of Paris, San Francisco, Mount Adams in Cincinnati, and a few other dramatically hilly places.
Worth a visit and a long exploration,
Also in this town is a well-known statue – “Christ of the Ozarks” – which is 65 feet high and serves as a centerpiece for the Passion plays that are done here throughout the tourist season, as well as a religious theme park of the Holy Land. Religious activism at its best, the site is a major tourist draw and must help drive huge seasonal crowds into this lovely little town.
But the most amazing religious site we saw today was Thornwood Chapel, designed by E. Fay Jones, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, and constructed in 1980.
The chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Although being listed on the Register is a significant step for any building, it is an extraordinary milestone for the Thorncrown Chapel: buildings less than fifty years old cannot be listed on the Register unless they are of “exceptional” significance.
And this one is truly exceptional. The outside is extremely striking. But once inside, there is a feeling of total unity with nature, as the lines between inside and outside have disappeared. Incredibly, the building is all made of wood, all local to this area. Now, this is a building whose purpose is perfectly served by its design.