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Grieving Architect Channels His Pain Into Building 1-Of-A-Kind Round Cathedral.

Jay Branson's round barn in Oklahoma

Some creations are a labor of love, but Jay Branson’s massive barn-like structure outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma is more like a labor of grief. Seven years ago, Jay lost his beloved wife, Julie, when she was only 48 years old. With three young kids still at home, Jay felt overwhelmed and lonely, so he did what he has always done: he got to work.

Growing up on a farm with seven other siblings meant hard work was a way of life. After graduating high school, Jay became a builder with one of this brothers. The two of them learned most of their trade from a Reader’s Digest manual, but they were quick studies and built a sustainable life from their construction business. Jay later set out on is own, taking on side projects in his off hours to build things that weren’t “a square box,” as he put it.

Throughout his career, Jay leaned into his “eccentric” tendencies to avoid building “building a box over and over.” He designed and built waterfalls for local parks and engineered an impressive food truck kitchen for a cinnamon bun business he ran on weekends, but he had bigger plans in the back of his mind. After Julie died, Jay decided to make those plans a reality.

Originally, Jay started building the 15,000 square foot structure to serve as a round barn that he could store his RV inside. As he got building, however, something else began to take shape in his mind. A curious neighbor off-handedly mentioned turning the barn into a wedding chapel, and Jay loved the idea.

At night, he lay in bed thinking about the domed ceiling of the barn. Inspired by a trip to Washington, D.C. he took in his youth, Jay modeled his design after the intricate capitol dome. Instead of concrete and plaster, his medium was hand-cut poplar and cherry wood.

Jay continued working his regular construction job, but on nights and weekends he focused on the satisfying artistry of creating something just for himself. Aside from a quick sketch of the walls that he made in the beginning, he had no blueprint to follow.

“I just started cutting,” he admitted. “You know, if you figure the circumference of any structure that’s round, and divide it into segments, there’s a way. You’ve just got to make it even, get it exactly right, and just start building.”

A few years ago, Jay met and married Valerie, who became his second wife. Valerie jokes that she has to share her husband with the cathedral, but she also added her own creative flair to the project. Not only has she helped hang plaster for the walls, but she’s dreaming of decorating the event space and bridal suite they plan to add for weddings.

Jay’s nickname among family and friends is Jay Bird, so they’re calling the prairie cathedral the Bird’s Nest, for now. They can’t wait for it to be complete, especially since the prostrate cancer Jay had previously suffered from has returned and the future of his health is uncertain. He hopes to have enough time to finish his masterpiece.

In the meantime, Jay spends his free time building. Hundreds of people have already come by to take a peek at the oddity rising from the Oklahoma wheat fields like a mirage. Some even become so emotional that they weep when they step inside and behold his intricately hand-crafted wooden dome.

What started as a way to cope with loss eventually became a lasting monument to his Julie’s memory, as well as a testament to Jay’s creative artistry. What a beautiful way to leave a mark on the world!

Watch the video below to see more of Jay’s incredible prairie cathedral, and don’t forget to share.

You can find the source of this article’s featured image here!

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