With almost 800 wedding ceremonies performed annually, many of the nearly 400,000 visitors each year to the Lloyd Wright Wayfarer's Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes have been known to wait two hours before getting a peek. So a recent two-week closure of the chapel caused an understandable frisson of disappointment.
For the first time since it opened on Mother's Day, 1951, the nearly all-glass church shut down for a full restoration. "I've wanted to do this for I don't know how many years," says the Rev. Harvey Tafel, with the chapel since 1972. As an 8-year-old, he attended Wayfarer's cornerstone dedication in 1949. For the restoration, about two dozen workers replaced 24 cracked wire safety-glass roof panels, sanded the pine beams and redwood window frames to remove the existing dark stain and restored what Tafel calls the chapel's "simplicity and naturalness." Chapel staff removed many split-leaf philodendrons where roots had begun to grow between wood beams and the chapel's steel frame, and Tafel boasts that landscapers pruned and carted away 50 tons of limbs and debris from surrounding Italian stone pines. They left untouched the coastal redwoods strategically planted a half-century ago to surround the architect-dubbed "Tree chapel."