Felicity, Arizona, aka the official center of the world, is a small, unincorporated community located in the far southwestern corner of the state. It was founded by Jacques-André Istel in the late 20th century.
Istel, a French-born parachutist, proclaimed Felicity as the “official center of the world.” He even had a special monument built to mark the spot, which includes a pyramid, a church on a hill, and a number of large granite slabs engraved with various bits of human history and knowledge, collectively known as the “Museum of History in Granite.”
The “center of the world” is a small spot within a pyramid, which Istel established based on a children’s book he wrote. The spot was recognized as such by Imperial County, California, and by the Institut Géographique National of France.
Felicity is often visited by tourists who are interested in the unique claim of being the “center of the world” and the quirky historical monuments. The community is quite small, with a population that generally hovers around a few dozen people.
What Are Some Interesting Facts About Felicity, Arizona? (The Center Of The World)
Felicity, Arizona, might be small, but it’s full of interesting and unique features. Here are a few:
- Center of the World: The founder, Jacques-André Istel, declared Felicity as the official “Center of the World” and even had it legally recognized as such by Imperial County, California. The exact point is inside a small pyramid, and you can receive a certificate for standing at the center of the world.
- Museum of History in Granite: Felicity is home to this outdoor museum, which consists of a series of large granite panels engraved with various aspects of human history and knowledge. The Museum aims to present a durable history of humanity and was nominated as a World Heritage Site.
- Church on the Hill: This non-denominational church was built in 2008, offering stunning views of the surrounding desert.
- The Sundial Bridge: This bridge is a functioning sundial and is accurate on the summer and winter solstices.
- Stairs to Nowhere: Originally part of the Eiffel Tower’s staircase, these stairs were purchased at an auction by Istel and installed in Felicity as a whimsical monument.
- The Official Recognition: The “Center of the World” claim was recognized not just by the local county, but also by the Institut Géographique National of France.
- Population: The town’s population is tiny, often reported as being just a few dozen people, sometimes even less.
- Felicity’s Name: The town is named after Istel’s wife, Felicia Lee.
Who is Jacques-André Istel?
Jacques-André Istel is a French-American parachuting pioneer and entrepreneur. Born in France in 1929, he moved to the United States as a child. After graduating from Princeton University, he served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.
Istel is most known for his contributions to parachuting. He founded Parachutes, Inc., in the late 1950s, one of the first sport parachuting centers in the world. He also helped establish safety standards and training methods for the sport. Istel’s efforts led to his induction into the National Skydiving Museum Hall of Fame.
Later in life, Istel turned his attention to an ambitious project in the desert of southwestern Arizona. He purchased a large tract of land and founded the town of Felicity, which he declared to be the “official center of the world.”
Istel constructed various landmarks in the town, including the Museum of History in Granite, a series of engraved monuments detailing human history and knowledge.
Istel served as the mayor of Felicity and lived there with his wife, Felicia Lee, after whom he named the town. Istel’s unique vision and dedication to his projects have made him a notable figure in both the parachuting world and among the small community of Felicity, Arizona.
And Why Did And Why Did Jacques-André Istel Create The Center Of The World?
Jacques-André Istel’s creation of the “Center of the World” in Felicity, Arizona, seems to be born out of a combination of whimsy, entrepreneurship, and a genuine desire to create a lasting monument to human history.
Istel was already a successful entrepreneur and a pioneer in the world of parachuting when he purchased the land that would become Felicity. He named the town after his wife, Felicia, and began developing it according to his unique vision.
The idea of designating Felicity as the “Center of the World” appears to have originated in a children’s book Istel wrote, “Coe the Good Dragon at the Center of the World.” He then built a small pyramid to mark the official spot and even managed to get the designation recognized by Imperial County, California, and by the Institut Géographique National of France.
At the same time, Istel began constructing the Museum of History in Granite, a series of monuments engraved with various aspects of human history and knowledge.
This seems to reflect a deeper purpose behind Istel’s project: a desire to create a lasting monument to humanity that would endure for thousands of years.
The unique “Center of the World” designation, along with the other whimsical features of Felicity, also serve to attract visitors to the town and the museum.
So, while the “Center of the World” may have started as a whimsical idea, it became part of a larger project that reflects Istel’s entrepreneurial spirit, his creativity, and his desire to create a lasting legacy.
What Is Coe the Good Dragon at the Center of the World?
“Coe the Good Dragon at the Center of the World” is a children’s book written by Jacques-André Istel, the founder of Felicity, Arizona. The book tells the story of a dragon named Coe who lives at the Center of the World. This whimsical tale provides a backstory to the real-life designation of Felicity as the official “Center of the World.”
In the town of Felicity, a bronze plaque in a pyramid marks the “official” Center of the World, as described in Istel’s book. Visitors can stand on the plaque and thus be at the “Center of the World,” according to the lore established by Istel.
The book and the lore around it add to the charm and uniqueness of Felicity, which also features the Museum of History in Granite, a series of large granite monuments detailing various aspects of human history and knowledge.
What Are The Biggest Landmarks In Felicity, Arizona
Felicity, Arizona, while small in size and population, boasts a number of unique landmarks, largely thanks to its founder, Jacques-André Istel. Here are some of the biggest landmarks:
- The Museum of History in Granite: This open-air museum features engraved granite monuments detailing various aspects of human history and knowledge. The intent is to preserve human history for thousands of years. The Museum includes sections like the History of Arizona, the History of Humanity, and the History of the United States of America, among others.
- The Center of the World Pyramid: A small pyramid houses a bronze disk marking the “official” Center of the World, as declared by Istel and recognized by Imperial County, California, and the Institut Géographique National of France.
- The Church on the Hill: A non-denominational church that provides panoramic views of the surrounding desert.
- The Sundial Bridge: This bridge doubles as a functioning sundial, accurate on the summer and winter solstices.
- The Stairs to Nowhere: A section of the original staircase from the Eiffel Tower, purchased at auction by Istel, leads seemingly nowhere in the desert landscape.
- The Maze of Honor: A labyrinth where each brick is dedicated to a person or pet. It is designed as a tribute to loved ones.
- The Felicity Post Office: A small post office that serves the community.
While Felicity is a tiny community, these landmarks make it a unique and interesting destination, particularly for those interested in quirky, off-the-beaten-path attractions.
Is There A Purpose Behind The Center Of The World In Arizona?
The “Center of the World” in Felicity, Arizona, is a unique concept created by Jacques-André Istel. It started as a whimsical idea born out of a children’s book that Istel wrote, “Coe the Good Dragon at the Center of the World.” In the book, Coe the dragon resides at the center of the world.
The “Center of the World” site in Felicity, marked by a bronze plaque inside a small pyramid, serves a few purposes:
- Tourist Attraction: It has become a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors who are intrigued by the idea of visiting the official “Center of the World.”
- Historical Preservation: Istel’s vision for Felicity extends beyond the Center of the World. The town is home to the Museum of History in Granite, which aims to provide a durable and enduring record of human history. The quirky designation of the “Center of the World” helps to attract visitors to the museum.
- Community Identity: The “Center of the World” gives Felicity a unique identity and makes it a place of interest, despite its small size and remote location.
- Legacy: For Istel himself, Felicity and the “Center of the World” are a personal legacy. He has invested a great deal of time, money, and effort into developing the town and its landmarks.
So, while the “Center of the World” may seem like just a fun idea, it’s part of a broader project that includes promoting tourism, preserving history, and creating a unique community identity.