The History

Desert Christ Park was established in 1951 on the original five acres where the Evangelical Free Church now resides. The property at the time was owned by the Reverend Eddie Garver, a humble preacher who made his way to Yucca Valley with his wife an two children in 1946. He established the Yucca Valley Community Church, then located at Santa Fe and Apache Trail, and acquired the five acres on the southern facing slope of the valley from the US Government in 1950.  Known as the Desert Parson, his vision was to establish a christian-themed park as a light for world peace.

Through a series of events, Eddie Garver was introduced to (Frank) Antone Martin, a sculptor-poet from Inglewood, CA.  An engineer by trade, who came up with the idea to create statues out of steel-reinforced concrete, Martin's dream was to place his 10 foot, 5-ton 'resurrected Christ' on the rim of the Grand Canyon as a symbol of peace to all mankind.  When separation of church and state issues denied his request, he labeled the statue as "the unwanted Christ" and spoke to several organizations before settling on Eddie Garver's offer to place it on a hill where all could see.  

 Photo courtesy of the late Ruth Long

Photo courtesy of the late Ruth Long

 Photo courtesy of the late Ruth Long

Photo courtesy of the late Ruth Long


One week before Easter 1951, the "unwanted Christ" was brought up the desert highway from Los Angeles on the back of a truck. This event sparked national interest and was covered start to finish by *Life Magazine for their April 23, 1951 issue. Desert Christ Park was dedicated on Easter Sunday and celebrated by the community it embraced. 

  Photo provided by Desert Christ Park Inc. archives.

Photo provided by Desert Christ Park Inc. archives.

  Photo by Long

Photo by Long

In 1952, Martin was invited back to be the guest speaker at sunrise services and decided to move to the area permanently and create more statues for the Park. He formed a non-profit *corporation with the Garvers and for the next 10 years, Martin created several more biblical figures, including a three-story, 125 ton facade depicting 'The Last Supper.' The original placement of these statues were in the area of what is now the Evangelical Free Church outdoor amphitheater. In fact, when this amphitheater was dedicated in 1962, it was billed as "The Desert Christ Park" amphitheater. 

 

The partnership dissolved in the late 1950s and the statues that could be moved were relocated to the present day Park.  Eddie Garver sold his property to local parishioners, the Brownells, who later donated the property, including their home on the hill, to the Evangelical Free Church of Yucca Valley. Thus, the original statue, the "unwanted Christ," the tomb, and half of 'The Last Supper' remains on church property. The Garver's moved on to missions in Arizona, and Antone Martin died in December of 1961. 

 1958, Photo courtesy of The Wilson Collection

1958, Photo courtesy of The Wilson Collection

  Photo courtesy of the Gardner Collection

Photo courtesy of the Gardner Collection

The Park remained a focal point of Yucca Valley for several more years, and many believed the Park belonged to the "church next door." A photo of a sitting Christ, with his arm outstretched, beckoning the little children to come to Him, graced the cover pages of the 1969 Yucca Valley High School year book, The ILLION.


Today the Park is operated and maintained by the Desert Christ Park Foundation and it's governing board. Funding is solely through donations and grants and all members are volunteers. Though bearing the scars of time and weather, it is still visited by thousands of people each year and remains an icon of the southern California desert community of Yucca Valley. It is the perfect place for weddings, picnics, photography, a walk through the Bible, or to just come and drink your morning coffee. 

Whatever your reason, the stark white sculptures contrast against the desert sky and continue to remind us of the rich historic heritage that is California and The Christ, who "came to give life, and give it more abundantly." John 10:10.

  Historical 1960 photo with Antone Martin

Historical 1960 photo with Antone Martin