Frank Lloyd Wright-designed church raises money to restore his vision
When the steeple of light lit up for the first time in 1994, it was described as “a beacon of beauty, an electric obelisk of mystery, a beam of love, a tower of illumination, a sentinel of hope, a parable of radiance.”
The light beams projected from the semi-enclosed roof of the Community Christian Church on Country Club Plaza were a part of iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for this “church of the future.” After the original church burned down on Halloween night in 1939, Wright was commissioned to design a new sanctuary for the congregation. “I don’t know this for fact, but I wonder if [Wright] wanted to design a building that was as progressive and as different as the theology of this congregation,” Rev. Shanna Steitz says.
Although the technology to finish the Steeple of Light did not exist when the church was re-opened in 1942, the display became a symbol of hope for the community once it was completed. Unfortunately, the church had to turn off the aging lights when they grew too dim to see.
In January 2019, the church began gathering partners to help them better understand how to preserve the building so they would not lose it to property developers.
“There are only ten Frank Lloyd Wright ecclesial structures in America, so we knew that made us pretty unique,” Steitz says.
After working with a variety of preservation entities, the church was able to make it onto the National Register of Historic Places. To celebrate this accomplishment, the church decided to launch a fundraiser in order to bring back the Steeple of Light.
“With all that 2020 has brought, it seemed like a good time for a campaign of hope and light,” Steitz says. “For us people of faith, we believe ‘the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.’”