'History of the United States' set in stone
Felicity Mayor Jacques-Andre Istel and former French Ambassador Jean Marie Daillet look over a portion of the Museum of History in Granite following the unveiling of the granite History of the United States of America portion Friday. (CHELCEY ADAMI PHOTO / February 23, 2013)
Long gleaming triangular rows of granite aligned in a pattern stretch out below a small blue and white church atop a hill in Felicity, an unincorporated community near Winterhaven, and each row features panels depicting different insights into the “history of humanity.”
Former French Ambassador Jean Marie Daillet came from France to attend the Friday event and took the occasion “to thank the United States for immense assistance and valor in two world wars.”
He also announced that he’s seeking the official endorsement of the government of France to name the Museum of History in Granite as a world heritage site, “thus taking its rightful place next to the Statute of Liberty among the 962 sites in 157 countries considered as having universal value,” Daillet said.
The granite monument project is the work of Felicity Mayor and Museum Chairman Jacques-Andre Istel.
“This gentleman is a hero. He’s a man who creates and creates year after year,” Daillet said of Istel. “He illustrates what can be done by anyone who thinks about world realities with an American view and a universal sensibility.”
The unveiling ceremony featured the president of the U.S. Parachute Association parachuting in with a large American flag and the presence of numerous dignitaries from Marine Corp. Air Station Yuma, who draped the flag over the granite monument.
The arduous writing and editing of text for the granite panels as well as the design with images takes Istel months with more than 60 drafts of one panel created at times.
The hand-detailing of the engraved text will all be completed within the next week with the detailed images to follow.
“The human experience includes history, poetry and art so of course we have poetry where poetry fits,” Istel said. For example, a panel on the moon not only lists scientific details but also moon mythology, children’s cartoons of the moon and poetic phrases about it.
Visitors from all over the nation were exploring the granite museum Friday.
“It’s wonderful, very interesting,” Linda McNeff of Maine said. “I enjoy all of it from the beginning of time to now, and all the different countries involved, history of everything. You could spend hours here and not get it all.”
Istel said he enjoys seeing visitors at the museum, “particularly when they don’t notice the mistakes,” he added while laughing.
Languages engraved on the granite monuments are sometimes as varied as the topics with some in French, others in Arabic, and even some in Hindu.
Istel admits his selection of historical quotes or topics can “be a bit arbitrary” but he obviously enjoys the task and makes sure to slip in the occasional humorous note.
“When you put history in granite, you can’t joke often,” he said. “But every now and then you can make people chuckle.”
Istel began the Museum of History in Granite in 1991, only intending to make granite monuments in remembrance of a few people. It then evolved into the astonishing collection of information seen today.
As to when he will be finished?
“Never,” he said, referencing the couple thousand acres he could continue to place them upon. “There are endless topics.”
Visit www.historyingranite.org or call 760-572-0100 for more information.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or email@example.com