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story.lead_photo.caption Roughly 10,000 square feet of glass give an airy aura to 160-seat Anthony Chapel at Garvan Woodland Gardens. Photo by Marcia Schnedler, special to the Democrat-Gazette

HOT SPRINGS — At first sight through the trees, the soaring structure could be mistaken for E. Fay Jones' much celebrated Thorncrown Chapel on the outskirts of Eureka Springs. But it turns out to be a similarly striking work of architecture at Garvan Woodland Gardens on the southern fringe of Hot Springs.

The resemblance is perhaps unsurprising, because Anthony Chapel designers Maurice Jennings and David McKee were associates of the internationally acclaimed Jones, himself a protege of the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright.

If Anthony Chapel is relatively unfamiliar to Arkansans, it may be partly because most paying customers to the perennially popular Garvan nature preserve do not stop by the airy building or its towering nearby campanile.

The chapel, located outside the gardens' main entrance, is bypassed by many visitors heading into the gardens proper. Relatively small signs point down a tree-shaded pathway to the site, which can be entered free of charge except when private events are taking place.

There is a sacred aura to the structure with its ceiling rising 57 feet high, even though no crosses or other religious emblems are prominently displayed. While entrance for tourists is free, the chapel does provide a steady source of revenue for Garvan. That equation is evident inside, where visitors find a glossy booklet advertising opportunities to rent the facility for weddings and the like.

The publication's sales pitch touts the building's impressive reality as "an elegant blend of native wood, glass and stone," which "boasts a soaring vaulted glass ceiling surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, amassing more than 9,680 square feet of glass that reveals the woodland canopy of the sky."

As the booklet notes, the ceiling "is supported by an intricate cross-beam system and massive yellow-pine columns. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide an ever-changing dance of sunlight and shadows on the native flagstone floors. At night, handmade wall sconces project a golden glow."

Anthony Chapel at Garvan Woodland Gardens can be visited without paying the admission fee to the gardens themselves. Photo by Marcia Schnedler, special to the Democrat-Gazette

The chapel is the centerpiece of a complex that includes three other buildings. In addition to quarters for members of the bride's and the groom's parties, there's the carillon of 16 copper-clad columns, rising slightly higher than the chapel. Its electronic bells chime on the hour.

The $5.8 million project was constructed totally with private money. It is named for the largest donors, John Ed and Isabel Anthony. At one point, it was named by the website Buzzfeed as one of the 22 "Coolest Places to Get Married in America."

While less known than Thorncrown Chapel, Anthony Chapel is larger. Along with the height of its ceiling and the dimensions of its glass walls, there are other statistics meant to impress: 138 feet in length, 1,280 square feet of glass skylights, 5,300 square feet of flagstone sidewalks, 4,800 square feet of stone walls, 62,500 square feet of structural lumber, 11,000 square feet of roof area.

Thorncrown Chapel, which was honored as the fourth-best building of the 20th century by the American Institute of Architects, does surpass its younger Garvan cousin in at least one prestigious regard. It was listed in 2000 on the National Register of Historic Places, even though that stature is generally reserved for properties at least 50 years old. Anthony Chapel will have to wait its turn.

Garvan Woodland Gardens, 550 Arkridge Road, Hot Springs, is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through mid-November. Anthony Chapel can be visited free of charge except when weddings or other special events are taking place. Admission to the main gardens is $15 for adults, $5 for children 4-12, free for those 3 and under. For details, visit or call (501) 262-9300.

Style on 07/09/2019

Print Headline: ARKANSAS SIGHTSEEING: Anthony Chapel at Garvan Gardens worth the visit

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