The Cause: The Creepy Landslide of Portuguese Bend

Lloyd Wright's Wayfarers Chapel to Be Disassembled

John Hill
15. de maig 2024
Wayfarers Chapel, also known as "The Glass Church," in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, in 2013 (Photo: Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress)

According to the website of Wayfarers Chapel, also known as “The Glass Church,” the historic Portuguese Bend landslide has been occurring in the area of Rancho Palo Verdes, in Los Angeles County, for more than 50 years. But it has been accelerating in recent years and months, from approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm) per year in 2021/22 to an astounding 30 feet (9.25 m) per year based on the movement in March and April of this year.

The landslide forced the closure of the chapel in February of this year, after causing damage “to the metal framing in both the walls and ceiling causing it to torque and bend; most of the glass panels have fractured; many doors are no longer operable; the concrete floor has heavily cracked; and even the cornerstone laid in 1949 has a long crack through it.” Additionally, underground utilities were broken and therefore unusable. Given the damage and accelerating movement of the creepy landslide, church management determined that it would disassemble the chapel and store the materials in a temporary, safe location until the chapel can be reassembled, either on the same site or one nearby.

The desire to build a chapel situated on a hillside above the Pacific Ocean, “where wayfarers could stop to rest, meditate, and give thanks to God,” dates back to the late 1920s, but the Great Depression and World War II delayed it more than twenty years (it was completed in 1951). Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr., who went by Lloyd Wright and was obviously the son of Frank Lloyd Wright, was hired by the Swedenborgian Church to design the chapel. He was inspired by the redwood trees in the area and devised “a natural sanctuary encased in glass with view of the surrounding forest and nearby Pacific Ocean.”

Perhaps spurred by the accelerating pace of the landslide, the National Park Service designated the chapel a National Historical Landmark in December 2023 — 18 years after it was submitted for consideration.

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