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  • Writer's pictureDiana McDaniel Hampo

A Blessing From Touchdown Jesus

Every time I drive down Central Avenue I feel a little bit better when I pass First United Methodist Church at Central and Grand. That's not where I go to church but my dad, I. Granger McDaniel designed the two story building next to the old sanctuary. I can feel my father in ever line and stone of that beautiful building.

Here's the back story most people don't know. My grandfather was an architect too. Irven Donald McDaniel. He worked for the architectural firm that designed the gorgeous old Gothic sanctuary in 1914-15. My grandfather, Daddy Mac, moved to Hot Springs to work on the design and he actually did most of the design work.

In the 1960s, when my father was hired to design the new building he knew he couldn't compete with his father's church. And the church didn't have the budget to build anything so grand.

Instead, he designed a building that curves into the old sanctuary. It's a beautiful and elegant curve he created to intentionally draw the to eye to the old sanctuary.That very same curve is in lots of other I Granger McDaniel buildings in Hot Springs. The building also has perfectly proportioned vertical posts or columns that make it seem taller than it really is.

And then there's the iconic mosaic of Jesus. I believe it's one of the most beautiful sights in Hot Springs. But originally, Dad knew he needed a dramatic piece of art there because he had a problem.

The Howard Johnsons Hotel next door was the problem. It was a two story concrete building and painted in all kinds of horizontal crazy, bright, gaudy colors. Dad said in an interview the Howard Johnsons was too much, too loud. He had to figure out a way to stop the HoJos. That's what the giant mosaic of Jesus had to do. Stop the Howard Johnsons. Funny thing, he had designed the Howard Johnson building.

The mosaic artists hired to create the Jesus were from Mexico. They were a team of several

men, maybe six or seven, who spoke very little English. The first night they were in town Dad invited them to our house for dinner without telling my mom they were coming over. I was a very little girl and I remember having a wonderful time at dinner. they were kind and tried to teach me a few world. Funny thing, my mom didn't say a word, all night.

I love First United Methodist Church and every time I drive by I have the distinct feeling my

father is watching and Jesus is blessing us all.

If you enjoyed this I hope you'll take a look at my other posts.

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