In 1956, a local attorney, John Greco, began building Holy Land on Pine Hill, which overlooks Waterbury. Holy Land started with a lighted cross on the peak of the hill and over the years, Greco expanded the 17-acre site to include a miniature replica of Bethlehem and other places related to the Bible.
Holy Land epitomizes folk art. Greco used whatever materials were on hand to fashion his miniature Biblical world. Using discarded plywood, tin siding, chicken wire, cement, and fragments of religious statuary, he built hundreds of structures, grottos and educational dioramas.
I was born in Waterbury and raised about a mile south of Holy Land, but just like native New Yorkers who never visit the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and other tourist attractions, I almost never visited Holy Land.
In the late 1950s or early 1960s, my kid sister and I twice persuaded my father to drive us up Pine Hill to visit the site.
The only other time I visited Holy Land was when I was dating my future wife. We liked walking and hiking and on a lark, we drove up Pine Hill and hiked around Holy Land on an unusually mild President's Day in 1981.
During its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, busloads of pilgrims visited Holy Land. But those heydays were in the past and the place was just starting to go down hill during my 1981 visit. Early signs of vandalism were everywhere. The situation grew worse as the maintenance of the site diminished with John Greco's failing health and ultimate death in 1986.
Circa 1995, Roadside America, which bills itself as "your online guide to offbeat tourist attractions" featured the ruins of Holy Land and that inspired other folks to make the trip up Pine Hill to document the ruins and publish their findings on other web sites.
Do a Google search on "holy land waterbury" and you might be surprised how many web sites the search engine reveals.
Most of those web sites deal with the ruins of Holy Land, i.e., what became of the site after vandals and Mother Nature had their way with the John Greco's handiwork.
My Holy Land web page takes a different approach and presents Holy Land when it was a viable tourist attraction in the mid-20th Century. And what would be more fitting than to revisit this tourist attraction by viewing tourists' photos and postcards related to Holy Land.
By the way, I am always on the lookout to add Waterbury Holy Land postcards to my collection, so if you have any you don't see below that you wish to unload, please let me know.
A postcard view of the Holy Land U.S.A. sign, the Ten Commandments, and
the cross on the top of Pine Hill; a sight seen by millions of travelers on I-84.
The Ten Commandments on the west side of Pine Hill. (from a postcard)
Postcard view of the 23rd Psalm.
The Seven Buses in the Holy Land parking lot with central
Waterbury and I-84 in the background. (from a postcard)
A postcard view of the entrance to Holy Land with the
miniature replica of Bethlehem in the background.
A closer postcard view of the entrance to Holy Land.
An even closer postcard view of the entrance to Holy Land.
The entrance to the miniature replica of Bethlehem. (from a postcard)
A postcard view of the miniature replica of Bethlehem.
The "Grotto of Nativity" in miniature Bethlehem with "Solomon's Pool" in the foreground. Although the inns were full, Mary and Joseph still found a place to stay overlooking the pool. (from a postcard)
The back of this postcard view of the miniature Bethlehem is noteworthy
because it has a Christmas stamp postmarked December 25, 1967.
Another postcard view of the "Grotto of Nativity."
The nativity creche where "every day is Christmas" even behind bars. (from a postcard)
A postcard view of the "Holy Stairs."
This building is dedicated to "Mary in the Bible." (from a postcard)
The Holy Land depiction of "the devil's first temptation of the Master." (from a postcard)
A postcard view of the "Fortress of Antonio" located "near the parking area" and "near the Temple."
St. Cecilia's tomb in the Catacombs. (from a postcard)
A postcard view of "The Peace Cross," which is dedicated to
John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, "Disciples of Peace."
Another postcard view of "The Peace Cross," which is dedicated to JFK and RFK.
A postcard view of the "Gate of Mercy."
Two unknown pilgrims at the "Gate of Mercy."
(from a photo dated 1978 that I won in an eBay auction.)
A postcard view of the interior of the "Gate of Mercy."
Another postcard view of the interior of the "Gate of Mercy."
This postcard view depicts an unknown building in Holy Land with a replica of Calvary in
the background. The building is dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, a disciple of Christ,
Another postcard view of the building that is dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King.
A postcard view of the replica of Calvary "with the last 7 words inscribed beneath."
The winding path to the Cross at the top of Pine Hill. (from a postcard)
A "confessional" in memory of Sr. Vincent Ferrer.
The "God Is Love" exhibit at Holy Land.
"No Parking Any Time" in front of Jesus at "Reproduction Holy Land."