COVINGTON, Ky. (WDKY)– On a hill overlooking the Ohio River, with a great view of Cincinnati, is a garden that looks something like a church yard, with a cross and a statue of Christ. The sounds of I-75 now drown out the birds in this once peaceful place called “The Garden of Hope.”
“When I first heard about, I thought ‘that’s interesting.’ Then I went to visit and it’s such a special place,” said Jason French, the curator at the nearby Behringer-Crawford Museum. French is always on the lookout for history related to northern Kentucky. But he recently discovered even many life-long residents of Covington aren’t aware the garden is still open to visitors.
The garden was the dream of Rev. Morris Coers. He was inspired to build it after a visit to the Holy Land in 1938.
“He had that passion and felt he could build something so people could experience a little of what he did in Israel,” French said.
A former caretaker has been quoted as saying Rev. Coers tried for a long time to buy the land where the garden sits, but the owner wanted $1,000. He returned many times, hoping the price would come down. At last, the owner told Coers he had heard a voice from the Lord telling him to sell the land. He asked Coers how much he had with him and sold the property right then for $5.
What Rev. Coers wanted most was to recreate the tomb of Jesus, something he finally did in 1958, using more than 300 tons of concrete. He died just two years after seeing his dream become reality, but not before also building a replica of a carpenter’s shop and a 16th Century Spanish Chapel.
There are rocks on the property that came from the Jordan River and one is from the Jerusalem’s wailing wall. Over the years there have been weddings in the garden, Easter sunrise services and woodworking demonstrations. Tourists used to come by the busloads. But now, unless you’re lucky enough to find a caretaker on the property, you’ll find the tomb and the buildings locked.
Despite the noise and some neglect, the original goal remains.
“Many people go up there and pray and it brings hope to a lot of people,” French said.
The garden is located at 699 Edgecliff Street in Covington.