Wildwood Chapel: Renovated 1903 schoolhouse now a wedding destination in Paris

Alex Gladden
Booneville Democrat

Nestled on the edge of Mount Magazine is a small white chapel. The white is brilliant against the backdrop of the national forest, and when you step inside, it is every bride's fairytale come true.  

What is now Wildwood Chapel was built in 1903 as a one-room schoolhouse next to St. Anthony's Church in Ratcliff, about 22 miles from where the chapel now stands. 

The land the chapel now sits on has been in Rexene Clarkston's family for more than 100 years.  

Wildwood Chapel

"I had always wanted a chapel here," Clarkston said. 

The church considered tearing the building down but instead gave the building to Clarkston about three years ago, her business partner Richard Scott said. 

While the building was free, transporting it to the mountain and then renovating it was not. Clarkston has spent more than $300,000 remodeling the structure. 

Her vision is not done yet.

Outside the chapel, Clarkston is planning two areas where couples can exchange vows. One will be near a creek and another set back amid the woods. 

Scott plans to eventually convert a small house on the edge of the property into a bridal suite. But that is a few years down the road. 

Wildwood Chapel

From one-room schoolhouse to Wildwood Chapel

Inside the chapel, Clarkston and Scott stripped off the paneling on the walls, revealing the original wood beneath. 

They also enclosed part of the building, adding a roof, walls and flooring. 

Although the chapel hosted about 10 weddings last fall, Clarkston is planning a grand opening this spring and expects fall to be the chapel's most popular season. 

But the venue is not just for weddings. It's open to any private party.

"It's a lot of fun," Clarkston said about operating the venue. 

Last spring, before COVID hit, Clarkston had six weddings scheduled, though the pandemic forced her to cancel all of them. 

The weddings last fall strictly abided by the Arkansas Department of Health's guidelines, Scott said. 

Everyone was required to wear masks, social distance and have their temperatures checked at the door. 

Tonya Fletcher, director of the Paris Area Chamber of Commerce, is excited about the venue as it will bring new revenue to the town. 

Weddings bring people into town, who eat at Paris restaurants and sleep in Paris hotels. The wedding venue is good for all businesses. 

“We’re really fortunate in our area," Fletcher said. 

Wildwood marks the second wedding venue in town, joining The Barn at Meadowbrook. People also get married at Eiffel Tower Park on the square and at the top of Mount Magazine, giving Paris a wide variety of options for brides. 

“We definitely have lots of places to fall in love in Paris," Fletcher said.

What makes Wildwood unique, he said was is its history, “just the story behind it." 

Wildwood Chapel

“She’s put an amazing amount of work into that place," Fletcher said of Clarkston. 

Prices for Wildwood range from $250 for a two-hour luncheon to $2,300 for two weekend days for a wedding. 

About Wildwood Chapel

Wildwood Chapel, originally built in 1903, is open as a wedding venue. 

Address: 111706 South Highway 309, Paris, Arkansas 72855

Phone: 479-847-0020

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Wildwood-Chapel-and-Event-Venue-421258394967387/