‘American Built with Stuart Varney’ premieres with look at Orange’s Crystal Cathedral
Fox Business News host Stuart Varney has lived in the United States for nearly 50 years, but the English-born journalist still remembers the sense of awe he felt as he first explored the nation where he’d eventually become a citizen.
“When I first came, I was struck by the size of this place, the size of America,” Varney says. “It’s a continent. We Europeans are more crammed in and close together, but America is vast.
“It always occurred to me, always I asked the question, ‘How did a continent-sized country open up?’ How is it possible that Americans built this place up, made it accessible, and brought engineering projects to the game which opened up America in a spectacular way?’”
“American Built with Stuart Varney,” which premieres Monday, Sept. 20 as part of “FBN Prime,” a new programming block on Fox Business Network, will give Varney the chance to share some of those stories about architectural, engineering, technical and scientific achievements built by Americans as the nation grew.
The season premiere tells the story of the Crystal Cathedral, the late Rev. Robert Schuller’s audacious all-glass church in Orange. Other episodes that focus on places in California and the West include the building of the Los Angeles aqueducts, the rise of the Vegas Strip, and the forbidding federal prison on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay.
“‘American Built’ is a natural for me, because that is very much a level of interest that I have,” says Varney, whose long-running news show, “Varney & Co.,” airs weekday mornings. “I’m not an engineer, but I marvel at America’s greatness and how it got here.”
Varney, 73, says even as a boy in England he had an innate sense that Americans were big, bold builders.
“Let me tell you a funny little story,” he says. “I must have been about 7 or 8 years old. I was walking home from school and I went past this building site by the side of the road. I saw a few muscular men, you know, digging the ditches and hoisting the scaffolding, that kind of thing.
“And I came back home and said to my dad, ‘Hey, there’s big guys down the street there. They must be Americans,’” Varney continues. “Where the devil did I get that from? How did I arrive at that point, thinking that Americans are big, powerful and muscular?
“I don’t know. To this day I have no idea where that came from. But it was obviously in my head.”
While some of the places featured on the series focus on projects of great political or economic import — the aqueducts that allowed Los Angeles to boom, the Hoover Dam that provided even more power and water to the region — others were included more for the boldness and passion of the builders.
“The Crystal Cathedral did not open up America,” Varney says. “It wasn’t some giant engineering project that made a whole continent suddenly available, far from it.
“What’s attractive about the Crystal Cathedral is the drive and energy and extraordinary vision,” he says. “The grit and determination that it took to get that thing built, and then overcome the sheer engineering problems.”
Schuller’s passion to build an all-glass cathedral, William Mulholland’s drive to bring water more than 200 miles from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles, and the others whose works are featured in the series are all connected by a common bond, Varney believes.
“The connection we have found is the can-do spirit,” he says. “That’s remarkably different from Europe. Europe may have had that spirit 100 years ago, 200 years ago, but America had it over the past century.
“And when you arrive in America, you feel that,” Varney says “You pick up on it real fast. You place obstacles in the path of an American they can usually get over it somehow or other. They’ve got the drive and the determination to get over it.
“That’s what this show celebrates, the can-do spirit of America.”