In 1855, pioneer Isaac Riddle discovered Pine Valley while driving cattle from Santa Clara to cooler valleys in the north. He immediately recognized the value of the lumber in the area and opened the first lumber mill. Soon, others followed and a community developed around the lumber mills.
As the community grew, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints settlers wanted to build a new place to worship. Many of them had come from New England and wanted to build the church in the New England style they were familiar with. They had plenty of lumber and workers but not an experienced architect and builder.
When Ebenezer Bryce (who later discovered Bryce Canyon) and his family settled in Pine Valley in 1862, they did have experience building ships. Bryce was a shipbuilder in Scotland before converting to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and immigrating to North America. According to local folklore, Bryce said he didn’t know how to build a church, but he knew how to build a ship and agreed to build the church using shipbuilding techniques.
Work on the chapel began in 1868. It is said the attic was built like the bottom of a ship, giving it its rounded appearance and nickname “the upside-down boat.” The curved ceiling in the chapel was suspended from a frame in the attic. The walls were constructed on the ground and hoisted to an upright position. Everything was attached and secured in place using wooden pegs and rawhide. There were no nails used in the original construction. There are multiple versions of the quote Ebenezer gave at the dedicatory ceremony for the church, but all are similar in context to “If the floods come, it will float. If the winds come, it may roll over but it will never crash.”
The building underwent renovations and restoration in the 1960s and again in 2004, but the original structure remains intact and is the oldest chapel still in continuous use by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Pine Valley Chapel and Tithing Office was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 16, 1971.
Know Before You Go
The chapel is still in use by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints so the church and grounds are off limits during Sunday morning services. Tours are seasonal so check before you go.