Church on the Hill

Felicity, California | C.2007

Photo Credit: @matzifer

It turns out Brendan Fraser didn’t need to shoot himself out of Mount Vesuvius in Journey to the Center of the Earth. The “real” center is in Felicity, California, a 2,600 acre town populated by just one couple in the Yuma Desert outside Arizona.

In 1986, the Istel’s purchased a plot of land off of I-8 after the Korean War. Husband and town mayor Jacques-André built a church, pyramid, and a long expanse of granite he calls the “Museum of History in Granite.”

But amongst all of these oddities, where is the center of the world? Jacques-André, in a New York Times interview, confessed that he knows it can be anywhere on Earth’s spherical surface. But for $3 (plus $2 for a certificate), tourists can stand for a photo-op on a circular plaque on which “Official Center of the World” is engraved. Located in the 21-foot-tall stone-and-glass pyramid, it was christened as such by California’s Imperial County Board of Supervisors.

In Felicity’s spirit as a town “Dedicated to Remembrance,” the Museum of History of Granite stands as an ever-evolving testament to human history, eerily similar to the Golden Record shot into space with the Voyager in 1977. Stories of early human settlements to modern moments are etched into granite. Even The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo was painstakingly recreated.

Above all else, literally, is the Istel’s chapel seated on a 35-foot-high artificial desert mound. Why the chapel exists can’t even be explained by Jacques-André beyond the compulsive feeling to do so at the time. Travelers eager for a history lesson of a different kind can visit Felicity between Thanksgiving and Easter.

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