What one structure in Boulder City contains six murals, two almost life sized wooden carvings, four stained or etched glass windows, five sculptures, hand carved doorways and chairs, Spanish tiled flooring, contained in a space under 900 square feet, and all done by artists donating their time? It is the “Chapel of the Holy Family,” located at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children on Nevada Highway. What a wonderful, peaceful, serene place to view so much diverse handcrafted art.
The actual chapel was donated to St. Jude’s Ranch in the 1970’s by Nellis Air Force Base. Oral history states that the structure functioned as a barracks while at Nellis, and the current dome of the chapel functioned to dry parachutes. Once at St. Jude’s, the building was converted to a chapel and the dome was expanded to include a bell from the Vatican.
There is almost too much artwork to take in on one visit. So much could be missed. One wall contains a large mural illustrating actual children from St. Jude’s standing with a male figure: Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s sidekick. The artist included Mr. McMahon due to his contributions to the Ranch. Another mural in the chapel is of a boating scene, the images were taken from the children and employees at St. Jude’s.
The murals that surround the lower half of the walls (which are easy to miss due to the chair placement) are covered with fish; each one is reflective of a type that can be found in Lake Mead.
The artwork in the altar area was done by an Italian artist who chose children at St. Jude’s to assist in the painting of it. The mural portrays 32 different figures and is surrounded by gold gilded angels. Even the hand carved chairs are covered with handmade cross stitched cushions.
The chapel is typically open during the day, and even available for weddings. What a secret treasure right here in Boulder City! The ranch supports abused, abandoned and neglected children. Founded in 1967 by Father Jack Adam, it also supports pregnant and parenting teens, transitional living and supportive housing.