on top of Pine Hill, overlooking the town of Waterbury Connecticut is
Holy Land USA. Once a local mans recreation of the Holy Land, it now
lies in disrepair. Years of exposure to vandals and the natural
elements has give it a post-apocalyptic aesthetic. Stories of gang
murders, a secret order of nuns and cult like activity are now the
staple theme of tales concerning this curious landmark.
the early 1950s, lawyer, evangelist and eccentric John Baptist Greco began construction
of Holy Land. Greco claimed to have received a message from God to build
this religious sanctuary. With help of volunteers associated
with his organization, the Catholic Campaigners for Christ of
Connecticut, Greco built this king-sized diorama out of
what ever he could get his hands on. Discarded household appliances,
left over construction materials, chicken wire, cement, tin, and
religious statuaries all went into its assembly.
the 60's and 70's Holy Land was a popular destination for tourists and
religious pilgrims. If the godly message Greco received was, "If you build it they
will come!", it couldn't have been more correct. According to The
Wall Street Journal, Holy Land USA had an Average of 44,000 visitors a
year. It was still opened to the public until Greco's death in 1986,
age of 91.
Greco willed the
land to the nuns who lived in a small convent on the ground of the
park. After his death, the upkeep of the park quickly declined.
Over the years and order of nuns have attempted to do some maintenance.
Unfortunately their small measure of care could not prevent the
park from quickly decaying to its current state. Though many have been
very interested in restoring this unique landmark, the nuns have
refused any of these offers. It wasn't long before bulldozers began to
occupy the grounds in preparation to raze the park. Folk
art enthusiasts put a
stop to its destruction by holding
sit-down demonstrations and sabotaging any
possibility of progress and
keep the bulldozers from doing their job.
No one is really sure about what will become of the park and the lot
of land. As time passes and it continues to be consumed by nature and
the elements, its future seems very obvious to me.
decided it was time to visit Holy Land before there was nothing left
to be seen. Using my mapping software I quickly uncovered its
location. Its signature giant cross cast a shadow large enough to be
seen from the USGS Ariel photographs. On
this adventure I would be joined by Isaac Dolom, a reporter
from the Daily Sonic and
resident of Conn. Though Isaac had grown up in Conn., he had never
heard of Holy Land.
When I began my long road trip to Holy Land early Sunday
morning, it was raining heavily and visibility was extremely
poor. As I began to get
closer and closer to Holy Land, the clouds began to dissipate and the
sun began to shine. Racing down RT 91 I was amazed by the shear
cliffs of Besek and Higby mountain. Though I am familiar with the beauty
and diversity of Connecticut's landscape, I had mostly visited the
coastal sections and only knew of the rest through maps and books.
Seeing it up close was an eye opening experience.
Isaac and I
met at a small diner west of Holy Land. After a quick lunch
and a chance to chat, we sped off to Holy Land USA. Isaac and I zigzagged
our way through the streets on the south side of Pine Hill until we
discovered the road leading to Holy Land. Just inside its gates
we were immediately greeted by Jesus to welcome us to the park. I had
notice that things surrounding his holiness were well groomed as if by
providence, but the further you distanced yourself from his divine
aura things quickly deteriorated. To his right sat the remains of
mini-Jerusalem and to his left the disheveled lot that once housed the
steel chariots of his pilgrims.
As we proceeded
into this Lilliputian ghost town I discovered surprises around every
corner. The Sphinx, Bethlehem Village, and The Tomb of John the
Baptist all hidden behind the overgrowth. Psalms cast in iron or
stone told the story of the savior. The goliath cross stood
there on the top of the hill, like a beacon for lost souls. Even from
a distance, the site of this glowing colossus would give a man
reason for pause.
became like a scavenger hunt. Both Isaac and I had read about many of
the site and were determined to see them all before we left. Though
much of the park was in a greater state of decay than expected,
this holy shanty
town provided several hours of fun for Isaac and I.
long after his death, John Baptist Greco's creation is inspiring
yet another generation to make the pilgrimage to his temple on the
hill. It has servers his god and I would go as far to say Mr. Greco,
very well. He may have considered this his way of showing his worth
to God. John was not the first man
consumed by the need to server his god in a novel manor. Mankind's proclivity to construct a spiritual
billboard is ubiquitous. This has been
going on for centuries all over the world. Even today there are many
other just as impressive as John's Holy Land. I anxiously wait to see
the next example of pious obsession. I've even toying with the idea of
building one myself. Since I'm not a religious man, it would have to
be a tribute to something important to me, Coffee! As a matter of
fact, a giant statue of Juan Valdez and his Donkey constructed from
broken percolators sound right! It will all be Fueled by his holy spirit, Caffeine!
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