While driving on Pacific Coast Highway 1 through The Sea Ranch in northern Sonoma County, slow down and gaze toward the east side of the road as you approach mile marker 55.5.
That stunning architectural gem you spot — the small whimsical building topped by a winged roof that seems set to take flight — is Sea Ranch Chapel. And as amazing as it looks from the outside … well, it’s even more fabulous on the inside.
Even better, this non-denominational chapel welcomes your visit. The 360-square-foot chapel and its grounds were gifts of Sea Ranch residents Robert and Betty Buffum in memory of Kirk Ditzler, a navy pilot, zoologist, and artist.
Ditzler’s drawings formed the basis for the chapel’s design, which was brought to life by architect/artist James Hubbell and a team of craftsmen and artisans using local materials. Hubbell also designed and crafted the windows, chandelier, doors, fountain, mosaics, and other elements in the chapel.
The chapel’s exterior consists of redwood siding that’s been dried and molded in place to create a shell. Local stone is used on the exterior’s lower walls, on interior walls, and in the courtyard. The roof is made of cedar shingles that conform to the winged shape, and it’s accented with copper. At the roof’s top, a bronze spire seems to point heavenward.
In the serene and peaceful interior, entered by teak doors (see photo), the chapel contains hand-carved redwood benches and free-form structures, a white plaster sculptured ceiling embedded with sea shells and sea urchins, bright-colored stained glass windows in crafted stainless steel fittings, mosaics, a wrought iron prayer screen and chandelier, and countless artistic touches to marvel over.
The Sea Ranch Chapel (40033 Highway 1, The Sea Ranch, 707-785-2444) is usually open to visitors 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. to sunset. However, it’s sometimes closed for private events.