Welcome to “The Center Of The World”
It’s in there…
…come on in for some pyramid power and enjoy the view.
Oh and in case you forget, you’re reminded of it everywhere you turn.
This is not the true Center of the World, just the center of the church…
…whose open blue doors invite you in to have a look around.
Located on the border of California and Arizona, Felicity was founded on May 11, 1986. The community was named after a town mentioned in Jacques-André Istel’s book “Coe the Good Dragon” and inspired by his wife, Felicia. Jacques-Andre Istel has officially established the Center of the World here, and he has built a town around it to bolster his claim (The Center of the World is also said to be elsewhere, making it easier for those who wish to be centered). He’s the mayor. That’s his signature on the official certificate you receive for standing at the Center of the World.
Driving in, you’re greeted by a 25 ft. high stair well…
…which is section number 12 (out of 20) of one of the original stairways inside of the Eiffel Tower. The stairs weigh 6,600 lbs and required a building permit from the county to install.
Every town needs a railway station…
…and a post office. It was dedicated in December 1987 when thousands of small post offices were being closed due to the economy (sound familiar?). The dedication day and ceremony included a speech in Chinese by Consul Zhou of the People’s Republic of China who traveled 600 miles for the occasion.
Jacques-Andre saw this barren wasteland while serving as a Marine in the Korean War. He fell in love with it and bought thousands of acres stretching from I-8 northward to the Chocolate Mountains. He didn’t really have a plan for the property when he purchased it but knew he wanted it to be entertaining. It wasn’t until the 1980s that he finally found an idea that piqued his interest, one that has now left a permanent impression on the landscape.
Are you ready for the “Center of the World?”
We were immediately greeted by the lovely Felicia, aka Felicity herself when we arrived. I was so happy we got to meet her. She’s a lovely lady.
It was the children’s book Jacques-Andre wrote, that helped convince Imperial County to legally recognize a spot on his property as the official “Center of the World.” He then had the town of Felicity incorporated, naming it after his wife, Felicia Lee. An election was held, and Jacques-Andre became the first (and thus far only) mayor of Felicity by a unanimous vote of 3 to 0. The Mayor needed a way to mark his ‘center’ so Felicia had the idea: “It’s in the desert, why not a pyramid?” Jacques-Andre was delighted, and had a 21-foot-tall, hollow, mirror-lined, pink granite pyramid built over the spot, which is a dot in the center of a bronze disk set into the pyramid’s floor.
After each of us stood on that spot, Felicity recorded the exact moment on our certificates and ordered each of us to make an obligatory wish. Our journey to the “Center of the World” was complete and official.
Felicity gave us some last minute tips before kicking us back out into the real world.
The Center of the World has become “the central point for memories” for Jacques-Andre’s latest, longest running and most serious project, “The World Commemorative Center at Felicity”. On a series of two-inch-thick granite walls — long, two-sided wedges — Jacques-Andre is having inscribed everything that he thinks is worth telling future generations.
Phase One consists of a hundred monuments stretching over a third of a mile. The Master Plan shows that the walls will eventually form a fish-shaped outline that encloses the Church and extends beyond, with its tail at the Pyramid and its nose way, way out toward the distant hills.
Some of the one’s that have been engraved include a mish-mash of just about every conceivable thing you can think of. There are Big Macs…
…Route 66 and tons of other obscure historical moments from around the world.
While snapping photos of this half-scale replica of the Liberty Bell…
…I saw a man walking towards me out of the corner of my eye.
It was Mayer Jacques-Andre himself. He’s such a friendly guy and you could tell how much joy he gets from working on this project that’s consumed his life since 1986.
As he left, he let me know that I could ring the Liberty Bell if I wanted to, which I ended up doing after touring the church.
Since my folks weren’t able to make it up the church steps, I was on my own, which forced me to ask a snow bird if he could take my photo. He took 15-20 photos with my camera and every single one of them turned out like this. I call it the snow bird filter and I kind of like it.
When the Mayor decided to build a church for his town — he decided he needed a hilltop for it. “I’m not particularly religious but if you’re going to build a House of God, it’s got to be on the highest spot.” Jacques-Andre had 150,000 tons of earth trucked in and piled up into what he calls the Hill of Prayer (engineered to earthquake Zone 4 specifications). On top of it he had built what he calls “The Church on the Hill”, which is modeled after one that he likes in Brittany, France. With blazing white, windowless walls and an aquamarine door, the church stands out against the otherwise dun-colored landscape.
While taking a photo from inside the church, I spotted someone special, one of the engravers working on a couple of panels. Regardless of what’s on some of these things, this dude has some pretty mad skills. While 922 granite panels have been installed so far, there are currently only 700+ etchings inscribed on them, which according to Jacques-Andre would take approx. six hours to read. Six hours I didn’t have to give, BYE FELICIA!