Over 60 Years of Service — A Dream Comes True
Wayfarers Chapel, a most unusual church made almost entirely of glass, is sponsored by the Swedenborgian Church and serves as a national memorial to Emanuel Swedenborg.
Wayfarers Chapel began as a dream in the mind of Elizabeth Schellenberg, a member of the Swedenborgian Church who lived on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the late 1920s.
The Peninsula was largely open farmland. A two-lane gravel road skirting the shoreline from San Pedro to Palos Verdes Estates.
Mrs. Schellenberg dreamed of a little chapel on a hillside above the Pacific Ocean where wayfarers could stop to rest, meditate and give thanks to God for the wonder and beauty of creation.
Narcissa Cox Vanderlip, also a member of the Swedenborgian Church, responded to the dream and agreed to contribute land for the chapel site. She invited young architect Ralph Jester to draw up plans for the chapel. The depression of the 1930s and World War II forced a delay in developing the plans.
Following the war Mr. Jester urged his friend Lloyd Wright, son of the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, to apply his genius to the project.
Lloyd Wright found himself in complete accord with the positive outlook of the Swedenborgian Church and its emphasis on harmony between God’s natural world and the inner world of mind and spirit.
The 3.5 acre site and the cornerstone were dedicated on July 16, 1949 by the Rev. Dr. Leonard I. Tafel of Philadelphia, then president of the national Swedenborgian denomination.
When the Chapel was built in 1951 it stood alone like a precious jewel on a deserted dusty knoll overlooking the blue Pacific. It was soon to be known as “the glass church” after its most prominent architectural feature.
The completed Chapel was dedicated as a memorial to Emanual Swedenborg, theologian and scientist from the 1700′s. His spiritual illumination of the Bible is the basis for its sponsoring Christian denomination, the Swedenborgian Church.
Today, what you are looking at is not a glass church but a “tree chapel.” Chapel architect Lloyd Wright, son of the renowned American architectural pioneer Frank Lloyd Wright, had been inspired by the cathedral-like majesty of the redwood trees in northern California. The redwood trees that surround the Chapel are forming living walls and roof. Since its dedication in May 1951, millions of visitors have toured the Wayfarers Chapel and its surrounding gardens.
To see Chapel administrator Rev. Harvey A. Tafel talk about the Wayfarers Chapel history and architecture, click here.
July 16, 1949
Dedication of the cornerstone and site consecrated.
May 13, 1951
Dedication of Wayfarers Chapel. The Rev. Leonard Tafel officiated.
January to December 1954
Hallelujah Tower constructed; beam planter walls, sidewalks and Reflection Pool added.
Colonnade and Visitors Center built.
Baptism front installed.