E. Fay Jones is almost certainly the most famous architect from Arkansas.

I was reading a post from one of those content mills recently. You know the kind – the ones that churn out a ton of material about a place that the writer has never been? They had an article about Jones and kept calling him “she.”

As much as I would like to say that the most famous architect in Arkansas was a woman this is actually not the case.

The E. stands for Euine. It is pronounced U-wan and is an old Welsh way of saying John.

Because this name was so hard to pronounce and spell Jones eventually began using his first initial and was called E. Fay Jones. At some point her dropped the E. entirely and became known as Fay Jones.

Jones was an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. He designed or inspired the design of the three famous glass chapels in Arkansas as well as numerous other buildings.

Interior of Anthony Chapel in Hot Springs Arkansas. One of the glass chapels in Arkansas designed by E. Fay Jones.

Early Life of E. Fay Jones

Mr. Jones was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1921 and spent his youth in El Dorado, Arkansas where his father owned and operated a cafe.

People say that he showed early promise!

As a boy he enjoyed building treehouses and forts. One of his treehouses even had a working brick fireplace and roll-up doors and screens. He also liked to draw on everything!

He determined at a young age to do some type of work that combined his favorite things; drawing and building.

Education of E. Fay Jones

After high school Jones attended the University of Arkansas where he studied civil engineering. His college education was interrupted by WWII. He enlisted in the Navy and served as a reconnaissance pilot.

He and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Knox, were married while he was on leave.

After the war the couple lived in Little Rock where where Jones worked as a draftsman for an architectural engineering firm.

Fortunately the firm recognized his prodigious talent and encouraged him to go back to the University of Arkansas to continue to pursue his studies.

A new architecture program had recently begun at the university so Jones studied architecture rather than going back into civil engineering.

He eventually received a Masters degree in architecture from Rice University.

A Mentee of Frank Lloyd Wright

It was during his studies that E. Faye Jones met Frank Lloyd Wright at an American Institute of Architects Convention.

Wright invited Jones to visit his Arizona studio, Taliesin West, during Easter of 1953.

Taliesin was a community of apprentices and their families who lived, worked and studied with Wright. It was considered an honor to be invited.

After that first visit Jones was invited to become an apprentice at Taliesin East in Wisconsin. Jones and his wife returned to stay with and learn from Wright annually for the next ten years.

Jones greatly admired Wright and his own organic aesthetic was greatly influenced by his time with the great architect.

Work and Style of E. Fay Jones

Jones loved the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and found inspiration for his designs in them. Although influenced by Wright he had his own style and aesthetic that he drew from the nature that surrounded him.

The Ozark Mountains don’t tower like the Rockies. They don’t spread out for miles in a blue haze like the Smokies.

No, the grandeur of the Ozarks is found in their intimacy. It is found in craggy hollows, in small vistas, in sudden springs, in blue green rivers, in lingering autumns, and in stone bluffs that loom unexpectedly above the riverbanks.

You can see these ancient mountains in the designs of E. Fay Jones. They match the land around them as if growing organically from the mountain soil.

His most famous works were private homes and chapels. They were places to reflect and to live.

In his autobiography, My Life, Bill Clinton talks about having lived in a Fay Jones designed home. This was a house in Fayetteville near the University of Arkansas campus. Clinton says in the book that it was a “perfect place to live, a beautiful little house.”[

A Few of the Famous Structures Designed by E. Fay Jones

The three glass chapels in Arkansas were designed and inspired by Jones.

Thorncrown Chapel

The most famous of these is Thorncrown Chapel outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

I think those of us who live in Arkansas sometimes take this important and beautiful building for granted. Thorncrown was voted one of the most important buildings of the 20th century by the American Institute of Architects.

This is a very important site for American Architecture and yet it is free and open for the public to experience.

Thorncrown chapel - one of the glass chapels in arkansas
Cooper Chapel

The family of Mildred B. Cooper commissioned Jones to build the Cooper chapel in Bella Vista, Arkansas in honor of her memory. Although similar in appearance to the other glass chapels in Arkansas it has a more feminine sensibility.

Cooper Chapel - one of the glass chapels in Arkansas
Anthony Chapel

The Anthony chapel is the largest of the three Jones designed chapels in Arkansas. It is located in Garvan Woodland Gardens, a botanical garden of the University of Arkansas in Hot Springs.

Exterior of Anthony Chapel in Hot Springs at Garvan Gardens. One of the glass chapels in Arkansas designed by E. Fay Jones
Stoneflower cottage

Stoneflower cottage originally known as the Shaheen/Goodfellow Weekend House is now an Airbnb that is available for guests to rent. It is located near Greer’s Ferry Lake.

We have included it on our list of most romantic places to stay in Arkansas. It is certainly one of the most unique!

Romantic getaways in Arkansas
Homes in Arkansas and nearby states

On this blog post you can find a list of the homes designed by E. Fay Jones. They are located in various areas of Arkansas (many in Fayetteville) as well as in nearby states.

Do note that some have been remodeled or otherwise changed from their original design. They are also privately owned and unless otherwise noted not available for the public to view.

Pinecote Pavilion

Pinecote Pavilion in Picayune, Mississippi is an open air gathering place at the Crosby Arboretum.

Sam and Jody Hunter House

The Sycamore Grove Lane house in Memphis is another that is not open to the public. It came on the market in 2018 and the asking price was 1.8 million.

Marty Leonard Chapel

The Marty Leonard Chapel is located in Fort Worth, Texas. A quote attributed to Jones says that visitors to the chapel will “think their loftiest and best thoughts.”

Fulbright Peace Fountain

The Fulbright Peace fountain is located on the campus of the University of Arkansas. This is a 41 foot high sculpture made of bronze links atop a granite base.

Awards, Later Life and Death of Fay Jones

Jones was known as an unassuming and kind man even though he was much honored during his lifetime.

His designs have won multiple awards. Several of his buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. His firm received over 20 national design awards. His work has been published in major architectural magazines around the world.

Jones’s personal achievements included winning a fellowship and two periods of independent study at the American Academy in Rome.

He was named by the American Institute of Architects as “one of the ten most influential architects of the twentieth century.” He also holds honorary doctorates from several universities.

E. Fay Jones died at his home in Fayetteville on August 30, 2004 at the age of 83.

Final Thoughts

Here is a quote attributed to E. Fay Jones that expresses his feelings of his life’s work:

“I like to think of myself as being concerned with a higher order of things and probably the clearest manifestation we have of some higher order in the universe is what we see in nature and what we feel in nature.”  

E. Fay Jones

I hope that you enjoyed learning more about E. Fay Jones – the most famous architect in Arkansas.

Thanks for stopping by.

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