Bella Vista WV Proud

062718WV Bella Vista Proud

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From a modest parking lot tucked away just off Lancashire Boulevard, vis- itors descend a short distance down the walkway before making a left to witness the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel shooting from the ground — a massive formation of shimmering glass supported by shining, curved steel branches, look - ing unchanged after 30 years. The closer you get, the more the chap- el's incredible size becomes apparent, with doors that easily dwarf a tall individ- ual. Trees and shrubs sit undisturbed by the structure while chipmunks and birds wander freely around it. Cindy Adams, who started as the chap- el's director earlier this year, said she loves the chapel, the people who visit it and the grounds surrounding it. "It's a landmark," she said. The chapel, commissioned by the Cooper family as a tribute to Mildred B. Cooper, was designed by Euine Fay Jones and construction was completed in 1988. Since then it has been open as a quiet place to the public and hosted groups and weddings. What stands out most, she said, is the timelessness of Jones' design. "Some people have been coming since it opened," Adams said. "It's just like it was when it first opened. It's like time stands still here." She's met a wide variety of visitors, including tour groups and religious groups who have prayed in the chapel, as well as people who come to walk the path around it, people looking for a quiet place to think and one mountain biker who rode in on the Back 40 trails for some quiet time. People come for a religious experience or a chance to appreciate the architecture, if not some of both, she said. The Gothic arch architecture, she said, makes for a truly unique structure. "It is truly a magnificent piece of art," Adams said. Scarlet Basore, president of the chapel board, said that, as a member of the Coo - per family, she believes Mildred B. Cooper would be proud of the monument that bears her name. "The family could not have picked a better architect to memorialize her," Rebecca Brubaker/BV Photography Club Early morning fog found on an area Bella Vista Lake plays with the reflection of autumn's beauty. The Weekly Vista Wednesday, June 27, 2018 F 1C Cooper Chapel a Bella Vista icon Keith Bryant Photo courtesy of Bella Vista Photography Club member Jean Berg The Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel on a snowy day. Basore said. While Mildred B. Cooper's husband, John Cooper Sr. was building his busi- ness, she worked on organizing and fund- raising. She helped build two churches, served as a postmistress in West Memphis and Cherokee Village and organized the first library in Cherokee Village. She also started Girl Scout troops and helped to establish the NOARK Girl Scout Council, according to a document pre - pared by chapel staff, in part because of her love of nature. When she died in 1983, the Cooper family considered how to memorialize her and John Cooper Sr. came up with the chapel, the goal being to celebrate her faith as well as her love of nature. Fay Jones was chosen to design it in part because of his previous work on the Country Club building in Bella Vista and because Cooper appreciated Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs. Jones brought a style commonly called "organic archi - tecture," predicated on the notion that a building should grow naturally from its environment. The LaBounty Construction Company, based in Lowell was selected and con- struction started in 1986. Jerry LaBounty, the head contractor on the job, recalls having a good time de- spite a build that brought several unique challenges. He previously worked with Jones on Thorncrown Chapel, he said, and he also built the Fay Jones house off Lake Wind- sor. This project, he said, was largely a matter of following the design specifica- tions — which included not tearing up the trees surrounding the build site. "All that stuff is a whole lot of fun, and to keep the natural surroundings … takes some special planning," he said. They started with the foundation, he said, with struts in place to connect the curved steelwork fabricated by Shiloh Steel. Moving those supports, he said, was tricky. Workers used an off-road crane and hoisted the steel trusses as high as they could before driving to the actual build site, where they bolted the trusses down before going to get the next load. For work at the top end of the chapel- in-progress, he said, workers built a self-connecting platform that would re- lease from the crane when it set down a truss, allowing builders to work roughly 40 or 50 feet off the ground without the need for a great deal of expensive scaf- folding. "One time that quick release thing kind of hung up a bit and jerked a little and about scared my guy to death," he said. Once the structure was finished, he said, workers laid the path around the chapel, which proved difficult because no cement truck could fit through the trees. The truck had to stay in the parking lot, he said, while workers drove buggies down with a load of concrete. They start - ed at the far end, he said, then worked back toward the parking area. The work took some clever solutions, he said, but resulted in a gorgeous site and a good tribute to the late Mrs. Coo- per. "All that kind of stuff is a challenge if you're gonna preserve a natural look, which, Fay Jones, he never saw a tree he didn't love," LaBounty said. Basore said that with architecture becoming a more popular art form and tourism in Northwest Arkansas growing immensely, the one and only Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel is likely to be - come a destination in its own right and to draw people to Bella Vista. "The chapel was put here for the pub- lic," she said. "We're so happy to be a part of that … It's special and I think people see that as soon as they Google it."

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