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34 votes

Gilgal Sculpture Gardens

749 E 500 S - Hours Oct - March 9 AM to 5 PM -- Apr - Sept 8 AM to 8 PM, Salt Lake City, Utah 84102 USA

Free to Visit
Closed Now
Opens Tue 9a
  • Independent
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“Utah's only visionary art movement full of spooky sculptures”

Formerly the secret garden of Salt Lake, Gilgal Sculpture Garden is now a public city park, open daily for the enjoyment, bewilderment, and sheer horror of all.

Located at 749 East 500 South in Salt Lake City, Gilgal Sculpture Garden was envisioned, designed and created by Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. in the mid-twentieth century.

Tucked in the middle of the block behind houses and businesses, many are still unaware of its existence and enjoy a true sense of discovery when they visit the garden for the first time. Gilgal Sculpture Garden contains 12 original sculptures and over 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems, and literary texts. As a whole, Gilgal Sculpture Garden is significant as the only identified "visionary art environment" in Utah. 

Thomas Child, a masonry contractor and Bishop of the 10th Salt Lake LDS ward, conceived of a symbolic sculpture garden that would be a retreat from the world and a tribute to his most cherished religious and personal beliefs, but it mostly ended up as super spooky.

Child began building the garden in the back yard of his family home in 1947, when he was 57 years old, and continued to pour his time and money into the work until his death in 1963.

Child named the garden Gilgal after the Biblical location where Joshua ordered the Israelites to place twelve stones as a memorial. The name "Gilgal" is sometimes translated to mean "circle of standing stones," an appropriate appellation for a sculpture garden. 

Many of the sculptures and quotations found at Gilgal refer to LDS themes: the restoration of the Priesthood, the great Mormon migration west, and the many similarities Child saw between the ancient Israelites and his LDS forefathers.

Although Child was not a classically trained artist, he went to great lengths to obtain and shape the perfect stones for his beloved garden. He created a complete workshop in his yard for handling and cutting the stones, proudly stating that all the finish work for his statues was completed on the site. He also used some unconventional tools to cut the stones, including an oxyacetylene torch (usually used for welding). Besides help from his son-in-law Bryant Higgs, Child hired Maurice Edmunds Brooks to help with the Gilgal project.

The finished statues are likewise unconventional, even eccentric: a sacrificial altar, a shrine to Child's beloved wife Bertha, even a sphinx with the face of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. Child, who shared the garden with thousands of visitors over his lifetime, knew that not everyone would appreciate his particular artistic vision. His primary concern, however, was that the garden would succeed in making people think: "You don't have to agree with me," he said. "You may think I am a nut, but I hope I have aroused your thinking and curiosity."

Hours: Oct - March 9 AM to 5 PM. Apr - Sept 8 AM to 8 PM

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Reviewed by

  • 2 Reviews
  • 8 Helpful
June 17, 2014

I can't believe you found this place. I had no idea it was now public. I would have thought the uptight LDS church leadership would have bought it up and closed it down years ago, since it doesn't exactly toe the party line. Maybe they learned their lesson from the Salamander Letter scandal.

It's a really cool installation--dude was a real artist, concerned with stimulating questions and conversation. His garden certainly does that in spades.

6 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Kathleen Oanes

  • Road Warrior
  • 79 Reviews
  • 39 Helpful
August 20, 2014
Rated 3.0

Definitely a strange outdoor museum. There is a box at the entrance which had booklets in it. It describes the sculptures and the artists that made them. The garden was pretty. The whole place itself was well maintained. A good spot for those who would like to have a quiet afternoon.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 3 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
August 02, 2014
Rated 5.0

Awesome spot!

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 2 Reviews
  • 5 Helpful
November 28, 2013

Weird place. Weird vibe. Pretty creepy.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Gabriel Michael

  • 10 Reviews
  • 9 Helpful
August 02, 2015
Rated 3.0

Interesting little park. and I mean little. only took me about 20 min to go through it. some of the stuff is fun to look at though. there were a good amount of flowers blooming while I was there. I honestly spent about the same amount of time looking at them as I did the art sculptures. all in all I'm glad I stopped. but you don't need a lot of time to see it.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 7 Reviews
  • 5 Helpful
November 10, 2014

Really wish it was open on for us to see. Was really looking forward to this stop. Our road trip worked out where we got into town around 9 and it was closed. Locals said it was a hidden gem though!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 1 Helpful
August 18, 2014
Rated 5.0

I can't quite describe how I felt in that garden. It was conflict. The art was cool and well done but, not being an LDS I felt like part of me was not welcome there. I would suggest anyone to come check this out. Fair warning, I had to drive past it once by accident to find it.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 20 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
August 31, 2017
Rated 3.0

An interesting and creepy garden. It's free and a booklet describes the sculptures, which is helpful as they're message was beyond me. It's worth a quick visit to expose yourself to some art.

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Reviewed by

  • 11 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
May 26, 2017
Rated 4.0

This place wasn't easy to find, we passed it a couple times trying to find it but we finally did. This place was really interesting and kind of creepy, but I like creepy. It's a quick stop unless you want to read every bible verse on the stones on the ground, which we did not. Definitely worth checking out if you have a little time

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Reviewed by

  • 6 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
May 18, 2017
Rated 5.0

Omg this place is beautiful. We went here and I was in awe. It's kind of hidden but definitely worth the trip.

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Gilgal Sculpture Gardens

749 E 500 S - Hours Oct - March 9 AM to 5 PM -- Apr - Sept 8 AM to 8 PM
Salt Lake City, Utah
84102 USA


Closed Now
  • Sun - Sat: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

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