History of Gilgal Sculpture Garden
Tucked away on 749 East and 500 South is Gilgal Sculpture Garden, a hidden local treasure. It is the only visionary art environment designated in Utah, containing an all-season garden, 12 original sculptures, and over 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems, and literary texts. Many of the sculptures surround LDS themes, one being the most well-known sculpture: a sphinx with the face of Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Gilgal Sculpture Garden as a public park, though 1945 marked its origin in the backyard of Thomas Child, a renowned masonry contractor and LDS bishop. Child didn’t consider himself an artist, nor was he classically trained, but he went through great lengths creating magnificent representations of his spiritual exploration for nearly 20 years. Child shared his unconventional garden with thousands of visitors over his lifetime. He expected his unusual garden would not be understood or appreciated by many, but hoped his creation would arouse thinking and curiosity.
After Child’s death in 1963, the Gilgal Sculpture Garden has gone through several owners and threats of commercial development. In response, Friends of Gilgal Garden (FOGG) was established in 1997. FOGG worked with Trust for Public Land, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City Corporation, and several generous donors to purchase Gilgal Garden and later became a public park in 2000. Twenty years later in the summer of 2020, Gilgal Sculpture Garden became Utah’s first site in the Distinctive Destinations program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.