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Douglas Newby
Architecturally Significant Homes
Horse & Trolly

Philip Johnson Country Church

A country church by architect Philip Johnson certainly adds more visual vibrancy to a small town than a traditionally designed church. Jane Blaffer Owen, a patron of New Harmony, commissioned The Roofless Church in 1960. Born in Texas, she was a philanthropist, an heir to the Humble Oil fortune, who also funded the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston. Jane was educated at Bryn Mawr and also at Union School of Theology. This was a great cultural and theological pedigree for her to orchestrate The Roofless Church. As Allison Hatfield commented in the last post, “One amazing restaurant is all a person really needs,” maybe one amazing patron is all a town really needs. Jane Owen was amazing. She was named by Queen Elizabeth II as Commander of the British Empire. I have found that successful cities, towns, and neighborhoods have major patrons. Dallas had Margaret McDermott as a patron. Munger Place, a small neighborhood, had the insight and drive of property owners like Bob Logan to transform the neighborhood that had been in decline for 70 years since Margaret McDermott had lived there as a girl. In New Harmony, The Roofless Church conveys surprise and joy—surprise to see it at the end of the block when one checks into the New Harmony Inn; further surprise to see what first looks like a walled garden reveals a sculptural chapel, and then another surprise when the sheltered church pews around the perimeter have a backdrop of beanfields. The Roofless Church is a meditative space where one can enjoy time by oneself. It also becomes the site of glorious weddings. The Philip Johnson architect-designed church adds to the Organic Urbanism success of New Harmony. *Philip Johnson Country Church
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