Gilgal celebrates five years as a public park
$600,000 rescue: The half-acre sculpture garden is hailed by the
By Mark Eddington
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
Gilgal Garden turned 5 on Thursday.
"Call it one for the thumb - a green thumb," Murray artist Beth
Mills said Thursday at a gala to honor its anniversary as a public
park. "My, how this garden has grown."
Indeed it has. In 2000, the Friends of Gilgal raised $600,000 to
rescue the half-acre sculpture garden and donate it to Salt Lake City
for a public park. Until that reprieve, the garden - hailed by the
Smithsonian Institution as one of the nation's top three folk-art
exhibits - was overgrown with weeds and slated for demolition to make
way for condominiums.
At Thursday's gala, admirers wandered through the sculptures now
lovingly framed by asters, marigolds and sunflowers to honor the
garden's milestone and to pay homage to Mormon stonemason Thomas
Battersby Child and Utah sculptor Maurice Brooks. From 1945 until
Child's death in 1963, the pair used an oxyacetylene torch to cut
quartzite and granite into a monument to their Mormon faith and
Gilgal Garden, meaning "circle of 12 stones" in the Old Testament,
contains 14 stone sculptures portraying biblical themes and engraved
stones with quotes from hymns, scripture, poets, philosophers and
Tucked away inside a city block off 749 E. 500 South, Gilgal
Gardens now draws an estimated 40,000-plus to see the signature Joseph
Smith Sphinx bearing the likeness of the Mormon Church founder, or the
stone likeness of a child wearing brick pants, among many others.
"This used to be a storage yard for [stonemason] equipment and the
blacksmith shop . . . and I used to come down here and play," Frank
Child, now 70, said about the garden his "Uncle Thomas" created. "He
would be so proud. He always had people come by to see the garden."
Gilgal, though, is not the same garden of five years ago. Instead
of the entering the park through the driveway of Thomas Child's former
home, visitors now access it via a beautiful walkway. The Friends of
Gilgal also have tapped the garden's trust fund to put up fencing and
restore the bowery and some of the sculptures.
But it is master gardeners like Beverly Sudbury, 80, who keep the
garden in full flower. Since earning her "master gardener" status, she
has donated 1,500 hours to spruce up Gilgal and gardens at the Utah
State Fairpark and Red Butte Gardens. The Salt Lake Master Gardener
Association has adopted Gilgal as one of its service projects, and
scores of members have logged time there pulling weeds, planting
perennials and trimming trees.
"They are our saviors," said Friends of Gilgal board member Robert Bliss=
Thought preceded the planting. Gardeners reflected on what kind of
man Child was and fashioned a garden "to complement instead of
detract" from his sermons in stone. Sudbury, though, admitted planting
sunflowers on impulse. "So it was nice," she said, "when his niece
stood here a couple of weeks ago and said, 'Thomas would love these