About This Location
Holy Land USA, nestled on an 18-acre plot in Waterbury, Connecticut, represents an intriguing blend of spiritual devotion and post-industrial decay. This once vibrant theme park, inspired by biblical passages, was a manifestation of John Baptist Greco’s vision to bring to life the realms of Bethlehem and Jerusalem from biblical times. Located at 60 Slocum Street, this site, now open to the public during daylight hours, offers a haunting yet fascinating exploration into a world where faith and time intertwine.
Founded in 1955, Holy Land USA was a labor of love by Greco, a Roman Catholic attorney and member of the Companions of Christ. With its replicas of catacombs, Israelite villages, a chapel, and stations of the cross – all crafted from eclectic materials like cinder blocks and bathtubs – the park once drew upwards of 40,000 visitors annually at its peak in the 1960s and 1970s. The park’s most notable feature, a 56-foot cross and an illuminated sign, served as beacons of this spiritual sanctuary.
However, after its closure in 1984 for planned renovations, Greco’s death in 1986 marked the beginning of the park’s decline. The property, left to the Religious Sisters of Filippi, slowly succumbed to vandalism and neglect, transforming into a shadow of its former self. Despite this deterioration, the site continued to garner interest, highlighted by its inclusion in Roadside America's coverage of offbeat attractions.
Efforts to preserve the park as folk art surfaced alongside various restoration attempts, including an initiative by the Knights of Columbus in 2000. The property faced a significant challenge in 2010 with the tragic murder of Chloe Ottman, casting a somber tone over the already deteriorating site.
A glimmer of hope emerged in 2013 when Mayor Neil O'Leary and Fred "Fritz" Blasius purchased Holy Land for $350,000. Their vision for rejuvenation included the installation of a new 65-foot LED-illuminated cross, symbolizing a community-driven effort to revitalize the park. This cross, visible for miles, changes colors according to the Roman Catholic Liturgical calendar, marking a new era for the once-forgotten land.
In 2014, Holy Land USA reopened its gates with an inaugural Mass, inviting the public to revisit and reflect upon this unique spiritual landscape. Archbishop Leonard Paul Blair celebrated a Mass in 2018, honoring Father Michael McGivney's legacy, further cementing the park's ongoing spiritual significance.
Today, visitors can explore the remnants of this once-thriving theme park, walking amidst the echoes of its past glory and present-day revival efforts. Free parking is available at the end of Slocum Street, right before the gate leading into Holy Land, providing easy access for those seeking to discover this hidden gem in Connecticut’s urban landscape. Whether driven by religious curiosity, historical interest, or a penchant for the unique, Holy Land USA offers a poignant glimpse into a place where faith and time have left an indelible mark.