By Jay Lawrence
So, let’s say you’ve led a colorful life. Successful invesment banker. Parachute enthusiast. The father of American skydiving. A Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines... and the author of a children’s book, Coe, the Good Dragon at the Center of the World.
Let’s say you are Jacques-Andres Istel. What do you do when you have a bit of time on your hands and the means to follow your dreams? In 1985 Istel decided he would found the town of Felicity (Population: 2), “Dedicated to Remembrance.” The town is named for his wife, Felicia.
The town has a plaque inside a pyramid in which the story claims the official center of the world is located. The town also has various other structures, including thousands of granite monuments on which important names and events are engraved. In 1985, Imperial County, California recognized the site as the Official Center of the World, as did the French government in 1989. Istel has been the mayor of Felicity for more than 30 years.
Felicity features a huge area covered with walkways and engraved red granite slabs, The Museum of Granite.
From Wikipedia: “The Museum of History in Granite, now a candidate as a World Heritage Site, was founded by Istel as a division of the Hall of Fame of Parachuting. This multi-decade effort is the crowning achievement of his life. Granite monuments include eight monuments to the History of Humanity, the History of Arizona, the Marine Corps Korean War Memorial, the History of French Aviation, the History of the French Foreign Legion and the History of the United States of America. These 100 foot granite monuments are designed to last 4000 years.
In 2014 Time,Inc named the design (by Istel and lifelong friend Wolfgang Lieschke) one of 24 in America worth the voyage. In 2014 Northern Arizona University started using museum monument panels as teaching tools for student teachers.”
Istel has lectured at Princeton, Yale, Harvard, MIT, and West Point.
Three books of history by Jacques-Andre Istel are published: The History of Arizona, The History of Humanity Volume I - Engraved in Granite, and The History of the United States of America-Engraved in Granite.
If you happen to be in the southeast corner of California, Felicity is about 13 miles west of Yuma on U.S. Interstate 8. It is still a work in progress and quite a statement by an energetic man. ~ Jay