PITTSBURG - After every big holiday, there is the inevitable lull and the opportunity for contemplation and regrouping before the New Year begins.

There is a quiet, comfortable place in Pittsburg that's designed for just that - thinking, reflection and reconnecting with the spirit.

Bo Pilgrim, of the chicken fame, is the visionary and founder of this slice of paradise, created for a town celebrated for peaches, historic homes and southern charm.

"It's a hidden treasure," said businesswoman Charlotte Brewer, who, along with others, aided in a recent expansion effort. "It's called Witness Park. Mr. Pilgrim is a born again Christian, and this was built as a depiction of the life of Christ."

She serves as senior executive vice president and director of marketing for Pilgrim Bank, another Pittsburg institution.

The triangle-shaped Witness Park, completed in the early 1990s, can be found at the intersection of Layfayette and Jefferson streets, but don't expect to see swings and merry-go-rounds on the premises.

Rather, the grounds are intended to serve as a place of reverence and reflection.

It's an elegant place that speaks to the soul.

In the center of the property stands a 75-foot-tall Prayer Tower, which features a small chapel that never closes.

There are no locks on the doors, allowing visitors to come and go as they please, day or night.

The chapel is outfitted with a long kneeling bench, over-sized Bible and visitor sign-in book that contains hundreds of signatures from people who stopped in for a moment of serenity.

Four Paccard bells from France chime and play hymns on the hour.

But it's the walls that seem to take the breath away - each is paneled with massive stained glass depicting the life stages of Jesus Christ, from the holy birth to the glories of Heaven.

There are more surprises outside.

On one side of the tower, there is a swimming pool-size gurgling fountain, which represents living water.

A life-size bronze statue of Jesus washing the feet of the disciple Peter sits on the opposite.

The setting is enjoying a growing popularity in recent years as a destination for small weddings, bridal photos, prom pictures and family reunion snapshots.

And until recently, Pilgrim was a regular visitor in the mornings, Ms. Brewer said.

"It's a tranquil, respite from stress," she said. "It's a gift to the community, for them to enjoy."

The town recently celebrated the opening of an adjoining attraction, Pilgrim Plaza, essentially a one-acre visual extension of the original.

It offers places for sitting, reading and gathering as a community, such as for lighting the town's 40-foot Christmas tree.

Multiple waterfalls converge into a small holding pond, providing calming background noise to mask the realities of everyday life.

Schoolchildren go there to sing. Plans are in the works to host an open-air movie night, just like the glory days of the drive-in, minus the cars.

A towering Christmas tree anchors the plaza, and the entire block is ablaze in festive holiday lights, but only through Jan.2.

Allen Weatherford is the executive director of the Pittsburg - Camp County Chamber of Commerce.

He said this unusual escape seems to be putting the town on the list of traveler must-sees.

"A lot of people come here just to see the Prayer Tower and the Witness Park," he said. "We just cut the ribbon on the new plaza and people are really excited. It's a great thing for our area."

Local officials believe Pilgrim's gesture to his community will remain a popular draw for generations to come.

"Mr. Pilgrim is a visionary," Ms. Brewer said. "People are proud to have it in a town we call home."

TWITTER: @TMT _ Jacque



Jacque Hilburn-Simmons is an award-winning journalist who has been writing professionally for 30 years. She's a former police reporter who also wrote a book about the KFC murder. She shares stories about East Texas through her Behind the Wheel column.

Recommended for you

Load comments