Wayfarers Chapel

Working with Wayfarers Chapel leadership, ARG is currently leading the disassembly and relocation of the chapel to safe land in the midst of an unprecedented landslide event. For almost a decade, ARG has assisted Chapel leadership in its careful and ongoing stewardship of the Wayfarers Chapel complex. This began with the preparation of a Historic Structures Report in 2015, which was intended to help guide the preservation and appropriate maintenance of the complex. In 2018, ARG began the process of nominating Wayfarers Chapel for designation as a National Historic Landmark (NHL), a multi-year effort that culminated in 2023 with the official NHL listing of the site. ARG’s institutional knowledge from these past projects has allowed us to work efficiently and effectively on this ever-changing, incredibly complex project site.

In 2015, ARG prepared a Historic Structures Report to further the goal of preservation, stabilization, and appropriate maintenance of the Wayfarers Chapel complex. The scope of this project included an analysis of the Chapel, Bell Tower and Office Wing, Colonnade, and Office Annex, which comprise the Wayfarers Chapel complex.

 

In 2018, ARG began preparation of the Wayfarers Chapel National Historic Landmark (NHL) application. The process for NHL designation represented a multi-year effort and included an extensive level of research, writing and analysis; several rounds of review and coordination with NHL program staff and subject matter experts who peer reviewed the nomination to ensure its quality; and presentations to the NHL Committee and National Park System Advisory Board. Wayfarers Chapel was officially designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior in December 2023.

WHAT YOU MAY NOT KNOW

 

Lack of funding mandated that construction of the chapel complex be completed in stages. Thus, the project was planned so that it could grow through the years without disruption of Wright’s intended vision. While the chapel itself was completed in 1951, the bell tower, sidewalks, reflection pool, and berm planter walls were not finished until 1954; the colonnade, amphitheater, and original visitor center were not constructed until 1957-1958; and most landscaping was not completed until 1965.

 

The chapel’s organic design intent is enhanced by Wright’s siting of the complex, on an outcrop overlooking Abalone Cove, and extensive landscaping, which reinforce the chapel’s intimate connection with its natural locale and distinguish Wayfarers Chapel from other recognized examples of postwar organic religious architecture, and of modern religious buildings in general. Following its completion, the chapel was widely published in national and international newspapers and journals. It was the only religious building included in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1953 exhibit, Built in USA: Post War Architecture, and was featured in the National Council of Churches’ 1956 list of eighteen Protestant churches cited for architectural excellence.

 

In late 2023, the historic Portuguese Bend Landslide accelerated at an unprecedented rate, causing land movement on the Wayfarers Chapel site of roughly seven inches per week. This land movement has necessitated the disassembly and relocation of Wayfarers Chapel to safer ground in order to ensure its long-term preservation. Disassembly commenced in mid-May, 2024.

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