Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Official Center of the World" - roadside oddity

Friday I posted about finding a church for today.  We had located the Trinity United Methodist in Yuma.  I posted a photo with the pastor's name of Tweedy Sombrero and wondered if that was real (the name is amusing to me).  Well's real all right.  Pastor Sombrero is a woman of Hispanic origins and she is a gifted speaker.  We enjoyed her sermon this morning, although I am hoping that God will bless me with forgiveness as my mind was wandering a bit thinking about my post for today.

Since getting settled here at Pilot Knob RV, we'd seen a small church up on a hill right across I-8 from the park.  (edit note:  Sidewinder Road exit, 7 miles west of Yuma)  So, yesterday we got in the car to drive over and check it out.  The church is on the grounds of the History In Granite Museum.  The museum is located in the town of Felicity, California.  There are no residents at the moment the guide told us.  I think she said that the "town" consisted of the 3,000 acres this museum sits on.

There is a pyramid at the museum, a gift shop, and a small restaurant that wasn't open and it didn't look like it was going to be open either.  Beyond the pyramid are all of the granite walls that comprise the main focus of the museum.  Inside the pyramid is the plaque marking the "Official Center of the World."  To actually see the plaque, I had to pay $3.00 and this also entitled me to a certificate verifying that I'd been there.  Bruce passed up the opportunity to stand on the Center of the World plaque.

We saw a short 8 minute video explaining how the museum came into being and then the guide, Felicia Lee, took me and 2 other suckers....I mean see the plaque with the "dot" marking the spot.  After being told to stand on the plaque with the dot and make a wish, Felicia Lee handed me my certificate and I was now released to explore the granite walls and the church.

The founding trustee of this museum is Jacques-Andre' Istel.  He is quoted as saying this museum is "to engrave in granite highlights of the collective memory of humanity."  He originally named this the Hall of Fame of Parachuting  (this is true, folks, I couldn't make this stuff up!!) but it was renamed in 2002 to it's current name.  As we walked back toward the church we could look at the granite panels, 417 in all.  Only about 1/4 of them are finished so far but work was still progressing.  They deal with all sorts of interesting and varied subjects related to humanity.  There seemed to be a lot of panels dealing with Chinese, French and U.S. events. 

This panel dealt with conflict in Indochina in 1954.  Many panels have both English and French languages engraved.  There were several panels dedicated as the Marine Corps Korean War Memorial, listing the names of all Marines and Navy Corpsmen who died in the conflict.

This panel was about the birth of French aviation.

This panel was about the settling of Arizona.

The church is called the "Church on the Hill."  It is a man made hill called the "Hill of Prayer" and it was built to keep the church as the highest building in the town.  It was dedicated in 2008 and is used for weddings or other ceremonies.

Inside there was a beautiful wooden ceiling and 3 large windows above the alter. 

Looking from the top of the 49 steps to the church, you can see the granite walls laid out below.  Beyond the walls in the center is the pyramid.

This isn't really the center of the world, but it has officially and legally been deemed that by some proclamation in California.  I don't remember exactly what the guide said about that.   The title all came about because somebody read the children's book, "The Good Dragon at the Center of the World" and decided to make this the spot of that center.

It was time to leave, and on our way out to the car I stopped to take this photo of the
Arm of God Sundial, named after a statue by Michelangelo.

Out by the parking lot is this portion of Staircase #12 from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.   The stairs of the tower had been redone and made safer, and the founder of this museum attained ownership of this portion of the original staircase and brought it here.....where else?  The middle of nowhere in the California desert. 

When this museum was dedicated, the Ambassador from France was here and so were representatives of the French Foreign Legion.  Lots of officials from California and Arizona, too, according to the video we saw.  

We enjoy visiting weird, wacky roadside oddities.  This was sure one of them.

Until next long for now!


Karyn said...

Looks like a fun place! Just the sort of 'tourist trap' we also like to visit. If we ever get to California, this will be on my list of places to go!

In the meantime, thanks for sharing all the photos and the narrative - If I never get there, at least I know about it.

KarenInTheWoods and Steveio said...

Very interesting blog again Margie! You find some neato places.

Happytrails said...

Margie, this is just too funny. Mike and I also like the weird and wacky places but this one is totally interesting. Continue to have fun looking for the "different" places and travel safely.