Gilgal Garden Address:
749 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

April-September—8 am to 8 pm daily
October-March—9 am to 5 pm weather permitting
Closed Christmas, New Year Day, Thanksgiving

Friends of Gilgal Garden is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and enhancing Gilgal garden for public enjoyment.
The Friends gratefully accept donations for continuing restoration as well as educational and community programming in the Garden.

Friends of Gilgal Garden
PO Box 58447
Salt Lake City, UT 84158-0447
(801) 294-1247

Friends of Gilgal Garden and the Children's Media Workshop sincerely thank the generous sponsors who made the publication of this site possible: The Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks Program & The Utah Arts Council

The History of Gilgal Garden
Gilgal Garden is the legacy of Thomas Child’s desire to give physical form to his deep-felt beliefs. “If you want to be brought down to earth in your thinking and studying, try to make your thoughts express themselves with your hands,” Child wrote. The garden contains 12 original sculptural arrangements and over 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems, and philosophical texts. Each represents an idea that rang of truth to Child in his life-long spiritual quest. Together, the sculptures and stones create a landscape of meaning and an unique work of art.

Child shared Gilgal Garden with thousands of visitors during his lifetime. He hoped the garden would inspire viewers to ponder “the unsolved mysteries of life” and struggle to find their own answers. Child was well aware that many people would find Gilgal Garden strange, but hoped they would accept its challenge. “You don’t have to agree with me,” he explained. “You may think I am a nut, but I hope I have aroused your thinking and curiosity.”

Child began work on Gilgal Garden in 1945 when he was 57 years old. By then, he had already led a successful career as a masonry contractor, married and raised a family, been a leader in community affairs, and served as a bishop of the LDS Tenth Ward for 19 years. Child’s passion for his garden consumed much of his time and money until his death in 1963.

Child went to incredible lengths to obtain huge stones weighing up to 62 tons for his sculptures. He had great respect for the natural beauty of his materials. He traveled the state, scouring mountain sides and stream beds for “a boulder in which I could put over the idea and tell the story and still have it a stone.” Child often hired large trucks and heavy equipment to extract the stones and bring them to his yard.

Child had a complete workshop in his yard, including special equipment made for handling and cutting the stone. He proudly stated that only raw materials were brought into the yard and all finish work was done on the site. Child hired numerous craftsmen to assist him in transforming the boulders into expressions of his vision.

"Can I create a sanctuary or atmosphere in my yard
that will shut out fear and keep one’s mind young and alert
to the last, no matter how perilous the times?"

- Thomas Battersby Child, Jr.

One of the most important artistic innovations in Gilgal Garden was Child’s use of an oxyacetylene torch, like those used to cut steel, for cutting stone. The heat of the torch removed the waste rock and fused the surface of the remaining stone, giving it a polished sheen. Child’s son-in-law and assistant, Bryant Higgs, was a pioneer of this sculpting method. Higgs was a skilled welder and trainer for the Linde Air Products Company which sold oxyacetylene products.

Higgs taught well-known Utah sculptor Maurice Edmund Brooks the use of the torch. An instructor of sculpture at the Salt Lake Art Center, Brooks’ commissions included projects for The Cathedral of the Madeleine, The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, and the LDS Relief Society Building. He also assisted with ornamental work on the Mormon Battalion Monument located on the grounds of the Utah State Capitol. Following Child’s careful instructions, Brooks carved features on several of Child’s works, including The Sphinx, The Monument to the Trade, Daniel II, Malachi, and The Last Chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes.

As a whole, Gilgal Garden is significant as the only identified “visionary art environment” in Utah. Nationally and internationally, increasing attention is being given to these environments. They are typically fabricated from found materials by people without formal artistic training to express a personal moral or religious conviction. A few of these environments, like Watts Towers in Los Angeles, the Orange Show in Houston, or the Palais Ideal in France, have gained acclaim. Most are little known and many are in danger of being destroyed.

Through the efforts of the Friends of Gilgal Garden, the garden was preserved as a Salt Lake City sculpture park. The Friends of Gilgal Garden undertook a three-year-long fundraising campaign and worked closely with the Trust for Public Land and Salt Lake City Corporation to purchase Gilgal Garden from private owners and insure its preservation for public enjoyment. The generous support of Salt Lake County, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation, The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, and many private donors made the purchase possible. The Friends of Gilgal Garden now serve as the curator of the garden and are currently raising funds for the conservation of the artwork and enhancement of the site. Open Tribune article on preservation efforts.

When Mayor Rocky Anderson officially opened Gilgal Garden to the public in October 2000, he described it as a “an absolute jewel.” We invite you to use this guide to explore Gilgal Garden, ponder its mysteries, and find your own treasures.