Holy Land U.S.A. "Then and Then" - Waterbury, Connecticut
The vision and creation of a local lawyer named John Baptist Greco, situated on Pine Hill in Waterbury, Connecticut, Holy Land U.S.A. was a place for education of the Bible and the life of Christ. It was not a shrine or a place of worship. It was dedicated in 1958 as “Bethlehem Village” and later became Holy Land U.S.A. Built with the help of Waterbury Italian volunteers, Holy Land was a tourist destination for years, sometimes drawing 44,000 visitors per year.

I lived in Prospect, Connecticut for most of my first 33 years, and when I was young, in the 1970's, my father brought me to Holy Land U.S.A. I have some VERY vague memories of Holy Land, just mainly just an image of it being on a hill (quite a climb for a youngster!), and the miniature buildings.

The park was open until 1984, two years prior to John Greco's death. It had been declining in the years prior to his death, and afterward quickly spiraled downhill, the victim of neglect, weather, and vandals. Despite numerous efforts to raise funds to restore Holy Land, none have been successful. Sadly, Holy Land U.S.A. is currently in a very bad state of disrepair and the area surrounding it is pretty bad. I thought about it recently (now that I live in the Midwest) and realized I had not given Holy Land U.S.A. a second thought at all while I lived there, despite having been by there a thousand times. During a trip back to Connecticut in 2005, I thought I'd go to see it after all these years, and see if I could take some photos.

However, what was really exciting, was when I returned to Indiana - what I was to find in the huge box of slides my mom brought back from Connecticut during her trip about a month before mine. The slides were taken by her uncle, Donald Lucian, back in the 50's and 60's, and among them were some photos of Holy Land U.S.A. when it was new, and some during its construction! I hadn't found ANY photos on the Internet of Holy Land U.S.A. back in its "heyday", so I added scans of the slides for your enjoyment...it is nice to see Holy Land U.S.A. depicted as it was new, not as decrepit ruins.

In 2006, I again returned to visit and take more photos. I thought that Holy Land might make a good subject for AMERICAN ROAD Magazine, dedicated to America’s two lane roads and US highways. Thomas Repp, owner / editor, agreed and gave me the go-ahead to proceed with my first feature article. That article was published in AMERICAN ROAD’s Autumn 2008 issue. See www.americanroadmagazine.com for more information or to obtain a copy. A scanned copy of the article appears in this set.

In 2008, the 56-foot tall illuminated Peace Cross was replaced with a new stainless steel cross (perhaps harkening back to the original Cross?). I headed back to Connecticut at the end of August and visited Holy Land again, and added a photo of the new cross.

January 2009: I was given even more slides of Holy Land taken in the late 50's during construction.

August 2013: Holy Land U.S.A. has been for sale for some time now. Within the past two months or so, the Maor of Waterbury, Neil O'Leary and car dealer Fritz Blasius, have teamed up to make an offer to the nuns who own the property, to purchase Holy Land for $350,000. They have started a non profit organization and are fundraising to make it happen. They plan to restore and maintain it as well. I always hoped and prayed someone would do this, because it is very sad how Holy Land deteriorated and became the subject of jokes and wisecracks. If you would like to help with the fundraising efforts, or donate your time to help with cleaning, restoration, etc. visit Holy Land Waterbury's website: holylandwaterbury.com/

Also they have a Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/HolyLandWaterbury

I'm calling this set "Then and Then" because "now" no longer represents the decay and ruin that have plagued Holy Land in recent years (almost 30!). Restoration efforts are underway and the 3rd Cross, a small, non-illuminated stainless steel cross was replaced with a larger, illuminated Cross, 55 feet high and lit with LED lights that can change color. Great day!

*Postcards courtesy of Ron Guerrera of Mattatuck Antiques & Collectibles, Waterbury, CT – Grazie mille!!
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