The Gilgal Sculpture Garden is located just adjacent to the Trolley Square. This garden is not easy to find if you don’t know to look for it. It’s not located directly on a street and only a small path brings visitors into the garden. The signs on the street are also not very big and seem almost like, they don’t want to attract attention to this place. The sculpture garden is a very interesting and unique place.
The word “Gilgal” means a “circle of sacred stones”. The bible mentions Gilgal as being created by the Israelites after God stopped the waters of the Jordan River to allow them to cross into the Promised Land. One man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel took a stone from the bottom of the river. The stones were played in a circle as a memorial to the miraculous crossing.
This new Gilgal was created by Thomas Child to illustrate his beliefs that the LDS Church had established a new Zion on the banks of another Jordan River. Therefore you will find twelve original sculptural arrangements in the garden. Furthermore, there are over 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems, and philosophical texts.
Thomas Child was 57 years old when he started working on Gilgal Garden in 1945. He had a successful career as a masonry contractor, served as a bishop of the LDS Tenth Ward for over 19 years, married, and raised a family.
His passion for this project consumed most of Child’s time and money until his death in 1963. Thomas Child was an extraordinary person as much as his sculptures. Only raw stones were brought on-site to be finished here. Some of them weighing up to 62 tons. Child often used large trucks and heavy equipment to extract the stones and bring them to his yard. There he had a full workshop with all the tools necessary to give the stones their final touch. This reminds me a little bit about Coral Castle south of Miami.
After the death of Thomas Child, the garden passed into the hands of new private owners. The “Friends of Gilgal Garden” (FOGG) was organized in 1997 to protect the artwork and site from being destroyed and turned into a development area. In 2000, Gilgal Garden was reopened to the public and FOGG had spent a lot of time and money to improve the garden grounds. It has now a formal entrance, security fencing and restored the Bowery. FOGG is maintaining the garden for future generations. They worked to restore the garden’s sculptures and engraved stones as weather and vandalism took a toll on them over the years.
Now visitors can explore the garden for free during daylight hours throughout the year. The garden is closed on Christmas, New Years Day and Thanksgiving but open on all other days.
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