Surprising place is the 'center of the world'

The Surprising Place That's the Center of the World
The Surprising Place That's the Center of the World

In the midst of one of the hottest places in the United States lies an odd sort of gem marked by a stark church and other strange memorials.

This is Felicity, California, otherwise known as the "Center of the World."

Jacques-André Istel established the tiny town on March 11, 1986, in Imperial County, California, in the far southeast corner of the state, just west of Yuma, Arizona, according to the unicorporated town's website. Istel named the town after his wife Felicia Lee, and it is reportedly the first town in the U.S. named for a Chinese woman.

Istel's vision for Felicity formed when he was a marine serving during the Korean War, according to Istel ran a highly successful parachute school business, which helped him purchase the land.

After the purchase was made, it took some convincing to have the location appointed the "Center of the World." Istel wrote a children's book, Coe the Good Dragon at the Center of the World, which convinced Imperial County and the French government to officially award the small town the title, says RoadsideAmerica. However, according to Atlas Obscura, "there is no scientific or political reason for the designation."

When Felicity was incorporated, Istel was voted mayor of the town by a unanimous vote of 2-0. During the course of his leadership, he built several landmarks across the barren desert, including the Felicity post office, the church on the hill at Felicity, a 25-foot section of the original stairway from the Eiffel Tower, a 21-foot tall pink granite pyramid that stands over the metal plaque designating the center of the world, the Museum of History in Granite and more.

With so many buildings and fun things to do, you would think the town was bustling with residents. The reality is that a mere two people, including Istel and his wife, populate the town.

The center is open for visitors between December and March, when temperatures aren't dangerously hot, according to Roadside America.

And, if you stop by this strange but entertaining place, you'll receive a certificate signed by Mayor Istel announcing you've been to the center of the world. You can even leave your mark on Felicity for just $300, which pays for the inscription of your name on the town's "Wall for the Ages."

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