Felicity: A museum at the centre of the world

Image courtesy of Bangkok Post

In the heart of California’s Sonora Desert lies the unique town of Felicity, founded by the 94 year old visionary, Jacques Andre Istel. This enigmatic location is home to an ambitious project: a museum of human history that continues to expand, aiming to encompass the entirety of documented humanity. What began in 1986 with two small houses has grown to cover 2,600 acres (1,052 hectares) and stands as a testament to Istel’s dedication and vision.

Visitors to Felicity pass through the symmetrical houses and encounter the first architectural wonder, a pyramid standing at what Istel claims are the ‘centre of the world.’ Beyond this, the museum features 723 red granite panels that trace the journey of humanity through various branches of history, science, and culture. These panels chronicle significant events, people, and developments, attracting visitors between October and April each year.

Jacques Andre Istel’s life journey took him from Paris to the United States as the Nazis prepared to enter the city. After earning a degree in economics, he initially worked in his family’s banking business on Wall Street. However, Istel soon found himself making an unconventional career change into professional skydiving. His big break came when the company he co-founded took off, popularizing recreational skydiving in the United States and providing Istel with the funds to build Felicity.

Now in his tenth decade, Istel remains full of energy, swimming daily and staying committed to completing the museum. With plans to carve more than 200 additional panels, his work is far from over. Despite dedicating countless hours to building a legacy, Istel remains unfazed about the potential destruction of Felicity, whether by natural disasters or the passage of time. As he eloquently notes, “Everything is forgotten.” However, at Felicity, memories of humanity are preserved and will linger for as long as possible, as reported by the Bangkok Post.

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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