Monday, October 13, 2008


Ever since I was four years old, upon trips to the Danbury Fair Mall, we drove by the central Waterbury area on I-84. Upon passing through, especially by dark, a giant cross upon a hill welcomes those who pass by. Later discovering The Cross was a relic of a bygone project called "Holy Land", the mystery surrounding the ill-fated Waterbury Christian theme park of Holy Land has been a divine goal of mine to one day visit. Many years have yielded it but this pas weekend my good buddy, Nicholas Fusari, and I took a trip to Holy Land U.S.A. on a beautiful Fall, Friday afternoon.

Call it a pilgrimage of sorts.

Holy Land, emblematic by an enormous Cross seen perched atop the zenith of The City, oversees the traffic-heavy Interstate 84 and nearby highway 8 (to the westerly portions) has mounted itself, shrouded in a vale of darkness and disarray for over four decades. Since, the oddball "theme park" entirely constructed at the late John Greco, a local evangelist and lawyer, has become something of an off-kilter destination for, well, geeks like us and has obtained post-mortem internet fame by Roadside America, who specializes in the Chronicles of offbeat locales across the country.

After a few minutes of driving around the dwellings of nearby neighborhoods (and through the bowels of The City before it), we eventually found the "Holy Land" directory sign, which still remains on nearby streets. Upon our arrival at Slocum Street, we identified one fatal error that led to the once attraction, marred by horrible logistics of driving through people's residential streets as we drove the elevating, snaking path that led us to a divine intersection: The morose, rusted yet pearly gates of Holy Land (and some more homes).

We parked the car near a hillside cemetery, aside visible homes whereby we believed nuns dwelled. This was merely the beginning of our morose journey into one of Connecticut's most bizarre landmark. We do implore that this site is technically off-limits, so entering these premises may be subject to, well, unintended consequences. Likely due to the frequency of the site's past of violators, we weren't at all yielding.


We couldn't find the notorious Catacombs and even if we did, I think I'd be too chicken to explore that. Actually, I think we may have missed more than we know whilst hitting the major sites.

Even though its owners don't have the funds to restore the once dedicated Jerusalem recreation, the people still care enough to save the cross.

Salvation At Last!

Just this past Summer, the emblematic christian symbol of Waterbury was replaced after many years of deterioration and neglect. A once beaming, illuminated Cross faced many years atop the hill, apart greeting millions of motorists daily, also saw its victimization to time and vandalism upon high.

At the behest of the people's donations, which were gathered by the nearby convent, its iconic symbol was "saved" or, actually, the idea was. The convent's nuns managed to raise a fair deal of the money (around $250,000) to reconstruct a brand-new, though more "economic" iteration. Though it doesn't match the value of the old one, which included neon illumination, this steel-bodied version depends on its nearby lamp posts to shine divide light upon it.

Unlike the rest of Holy Land, which today, resembles a post-apocalyptic blight as it hangs in the balance of its own dimension, not entirely (we say "entirely" because trespassing is not permitted) accessible by tourists since 1984 when the park shuttered for good. Perhaps its a telling tale of the current state of Waterbury, which has strayed far from the once glorious Brass City it once was (sadly, like most Connecticut's urban centers which are borderline disasters *cough* Hartford).

Enjoy the full photo gallery, with all shots taken by myself. Though it's ideal to see this place in early Spring, the colors do the trip justice. I urge you to check out some historic decade-by-decade "developments," especially that of the original Cross found on Road Trip Memories.

Lastly, I can't seem to find any vestige of that other funky all-caps "Hollywood-style" sign that used to be at the ledge of the mountain on I-84, behind those white-roofed homes (signified by the faint red oval), facing (what's now) the Brass Mill Center mall. If anyone knows or remembers this, let me know.

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