Utah’s Hidden Treasures: A Garden to Remember

Malachi+statue

Photo by Hannah Blankman

Malachi statue

Hannah Blankman and Ella Milakovic

Another week, another adventure. This time we went to a garden, which sounds boring, right? I mean who wants to walk around and look at flowers. But this isn’t your typical, green, grassy type of garden. In the middle of Salt Lake lies an entrance to a mystical world of giant stone statues that tell the stories of historic moments from the Bible and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints history.  Even if you are not interested in the stories that his carvings depict, the garden is still a fascinating experience. 

This magical place is called Gilgal Gardens. You may be asking yourself, what on earth is that? Well a gilgal is a circle of sacred stones. These stone statues that depict the church’s stories are arranged in circles. The park is full of statues and trees; this creates the peaceful feeling there. The statue garden is tucked away in a small neighborhood in Downtown Salt Lake, creating a serene park in the middle of the busy city. The garden is all Thomas Child’s work. In 1945, Child began creating these magnificent sculptures in his backyard. The backyard garden continued to grow until Child’s death in 1963. Even now, after he has died you can see stones that he was planning to sculpt.

For each of these 14 sculptures in the garden, Child scoured the mountains looking for the perfect stones for the carving that he was working on. Child has even said that he looked for “a boulder in which I could…tell the story and still have it a stone.” 

The stones that he picked are seemingly perfect for each sculpture. The vibrant colors of the stones provide contrast against the background of the park.

 Thomas Child chose rocks that had purple, orange and silver tones to create the statues. He used trains, and large trucks to get the stone boulders, ranging up to 62 tons, down the mountain and to the gardens. 

In 2000, Friends of Gilgal Gardens (FOGG) became the curators and took over for the private owners so that they can open the park to the public. FOGG has worked to repair the damage and vandalism that had accumulated over the years. They have repaired the sculptures that were starting to break and added pieces that had disappeared. The sculpture called “Malachi” features two stone hearts and a set of hands in a small cave. We would have never known that for years the hands were missing from this piece until FOGG hired a sculptor to recreate the hands from one of the originals that had been saved. 

The gardens were truly marvelous! The attention to detail in every single one of his pieces made for an interesting experience of walking around and examining every angle and side of the piece to truly grasp the full extent of his work.

When we went to go visit, it was so fun!  It was amazing how in the middle of such a busy city lies this peaceful little garden. The sculptures really are beautiful, and Child was so talented. The garden was so serene and beautiful, it is worth visiting to just see the sculptures. The amount of time and effort that Child put into his carvings really does shine through and makes it a fun park to visit.  

But why should you go? Well, if you have made it this far you probably have an interest in history and art, which this place is filled with! It is not like some stuffy museum where you walk around with velvet ropes stopping you from getting to fully experience the art work. There is nothing stopping you from experiencing the pieces and grasping the amazing history Child worked so hard to bring to life.