Private suite is a sight to behold, carpenters say

But the public won’t see it. A TBN official describes it as ‘standard executive offices.’

COSTA MESA — Visitors may stroll the manicured grounds, browse the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh Gift Shop and relax in a state-of-the-art Virtual Reality Theater to watch high-definition videos of the life of Christ.

But what most won’t see at Trinity Broadcasting Network‘s new world headquarters is founder Paul Crouch’s 8,000-square-foot executive suite, which occupies half of the top floor of the three-story building and is strictly off-limits to the public.

Behind doors kept locked throughout construction are a wet bar and sauna, a personal gym, meticulously handcrafted black walnut woodwork and ornate velvet furniture.

TBN: The Gospel of Prosperity

PART 1: A worldwide television ministry prospers

Television has built TBN into a power
The Orange County-based network has grown in 25 years from one station to 750, largely thanks to gifts from viewers.

PART 2: The theology behind Trinity Broadcasting

TBN anything but traditional
The Costa Mesa-based ministry stands apart, even from its often-dramatic Pentecostal cousins.

Growth of a dynasty
They are among the most influential of modern-day evangelists, photographed with presidents and queens, traveling the world by private jet, a channel to God for 8 million saved souls.

PART 3: Millions for a new world headquarters

TBN’s headquarters built on grand scale
Supporters say the heavenly make- over is a tribute to a higher power. But it carries a lofty price.

Private suite is a sight to behold, carpenters say
But the public won’t see it. A TBN official describes it as ‘standard executive offices.’

The third-floor quarters will serve as Crouch’s executive suite. He broadcasts his “Praise the Lord” program from the second floor of the building, dubbed Trinity Christian City International.

TBN officials described the quarters as “standard executive offices” and declined The Orange County Register’s request to view them. Crouch does not grant interviews and would not comment.

But others who have been inside or helped build the suite say it is more befitting a mansion than an office building.

“This makes Hearst Castle look like a doghouse,” said Steve Oliver, a master journeyman carpenter.

While scores of hired hands worked on the exterior and other public areas of the building, Oliver and others in a crew of highly skilled carpenters spent several months last year on Crouch’s private third-floor quarters.

The finished product is “really rich looking,” said Willa Bouwens-Killeen, a Costa Mesa senior planner.

“The wood is the very best quality, and they used the best craftsmen,” she said. “It looks like something you’d expect in a mansion type of house rather than offices.”

Work on the third floor was kept “under lock and key,” said Oliver, whose account was verified by others involved in the project.

He said as many as 40 carpenters worked on the project at any one time, while Richard Hubble, who owns a Fort Worth construction company that put a new facade on the building, put the number at about two dozen.

In either scenario, it required a lengthy and expensive process to install and finish top-quality black walnut columns and corinthian columns, mantels, egg-and-dart moldings, lion’s head onlays and other accoutrements.

“There were probably 25 carpenters on that floor for six months,” Hubble said. “When you figure 25 carpenters for six months at the California rate of 30 bucks or so an hour, it costs a bunch.”

Adding substantially to the cost of Crouch’s quarters were a variety of expensive, handcrafted woodwork items, including $825-apiece lions that flank the massive fireplace, and an array of columns priced at $1,500 each and up.

All of the items were crafted from black walnut, said Stephen Enkeboll, president of Raymond Enkeboll Designs Architectural Woodcarvings in Carson, which caters to upscale clients.

“It is what is called veneer quality, the highest type of wood,” he said, declining to disclose how much TBN spent on his company’s products.

TBN: The Blasphemy Network

Trintiy Broadcasting Network (TBN), led by founders Paul and Jan Crouch, is the world’s largest religious TV network. It claims to be a Christian ministry.

However, while some legitimate ministries and teachers (those who adhere to the orthodox teachings and practices of historical Christianity) appear on TBN, the network promotes such an incredible amount of heretical material – including extremist Word-Faith teachings – that it is often referred to as “The Blasphemy Network.”

Money seemed of little concern, Oliver and others said.

Doors were custom-made at a carpentry shop set up at the site. Walls were straight-lined with sophisticated laser equipment, and woodwork was installed in a painstaking fashion that eliminated visible joints or nail holes.

A separate crew of furniture finishers spent about two months staining and polishing the woodwork, Hubble said.

Throughout the project, Oliver said, if anything was deemed to be less than perfect, it was ripped out and discarded.

After he spent three weeks meticulously straight-lining the walls of a the executive suite dining room, Oliver said, TBN officials walked in one day and told him to start over.

“They came in, changed their minds and moved everything over a half an inch,” he said. “They threw all that work away. There’s probably 10 grand in that, and they threw it all away.”

The Crouches personally inspected the work, Oliver and others said. Jan, in particular, was quick to change or discard anything she didn’t like, Oliver said.

“She came through once and was terrorizing everybody,” he said. ” ‘Throw this out, throw that out.’ You could see the smoke coming out of her.”

TBN officials defended the renovation project and disputed Oliver’s contention that it is a monument to excess.

“I wouldn’t say they are lavish,” art director Doug Marsh said.

TBN Vice President Terrence Hickey agreed.

“We have stayed to the vision God has given us,” Hickey said. “We are careful with every penny.”

He said the woodwork and other appointments are in keeping with the building’s overall design theme. Inexpensive, ultramodern furnishings would be out of place, he said.

“You don’t go to IKEA and throw it in there,” he said.

Vacation? Short break? Day trip? Get Skip-the-line tickets at GetYourGuide.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Orange County Register, USA
June 2, 1998
Kim Christensen and Carol McGraw, The Orange County Register

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday June 2, 1998.
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