Official Center of the World
There are a lot of strange places in the desert that are cool because they are kitschy, they are intentionally weird to attract attention in the darwinian struggle to get people off the interstate. The Official Center of the World in Felicity, CA is not one of those places... It is just weird because it is.
Founded by a french émigré named Jacques-André Istel, who amongst other things is credited with helping to popularize skydiving in the US, Felicity is recognized as the official center of the world by France and Imperial County California. In the 80’s he wrote a children’s book called “Coe, the Good Dragon at the Center of the World” which served him as the inspiration to found the town named after his wife, Felicia.
The town, which has a population of 2, is home to a post office, a pyramid marking the official center of the world, a non-denominational chapel, a chunk of the original spiral staircase from the Eiffel Tower, a sundial modeled after the hand of god from the sistine chapel, and The Museum of History in Granite.
The Pyramid is a part of an experience that culminates with you getting a certificate verifying you have visited the center of the world (we were the 49,500 and 49,501st people to do so). Inside the pyramid is a small bronze plaque that you stand on and make a wish.
Looking out from the pyramid you see the chapel which is built on top of a hill made from 150,000 tons of dirt to elevate it above the rest of the town. Apparently it is a copy of a church in Normandy. Quite a striking little building.
So far my wish made at the center of the world, contractually granted to my for paying $10, is working out.
Even more strange than everything else, but completely amazing, is the Museum of History in Granite, which is attempting to create a catalog of earthly history and human experience that should still be visible in 3000 years. The whole set up is carved into giant marble monuments radiating outwards in a sort of snowflake like shape. they are huge and a fascinating read.
This really is one of those authentically strange places that this part of California seems to breed, but for whatever reason we’re glad of it, because how else would we have been able to make a wish at the center of the world.