Work is underway to bring back a piece of nostalgia in the brass city.
Many know the Holy Land USA because they see the bright cross on the property from Interstate 84.
While the property is filled with overgrown weeds and crumbling buildings, crews started clearing away brush cleared from around the sign.
"It took us almost a month last time just to clear it,” Bill Fitzpatrick, who is the volunteer coordinator for Holy Land, said.
Fitzpatrick grew up in the Waterbury neighborhood before I-84 split the city down the middle.
Fitzpatrick said he watched as his neighbor Johnny Greco built Holy Land from scratch.
Greco was "very religious man,” according to Fitzpatrick.
“And he just wanted to build a little Bethlehem,” Fitzpatrick said.
In its heyday, Fitzpatrick said the Holy Land was packed with visitors.
"They came by the droves, they came by the thousands,” Fitzpatrick said. “The parking lot here, hundreds and hundreds of buses would come up, mostly on the weekend. And that's all it was, a teaching tool."
Fitzpatrick said those glory days lasted from the 1950's into the 80's. But for decades now, the 17 acres of biblical villages and displays have been falling apart.
"There's folklure about it, there's urban legends about it,” Fitzpatrick said. “None of them are true."
But changing that perception, according to Fitzpatrick, takes time. Improvements have been coming since a private group headed by Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary purchased the land in 2013.
"We got the cross, and that was a major achievement,” Fitzpatrick said. “And it was all donated."
It cost $350,000 to purchase the cross and then, $10,000 a year to cover insurance and light the cross up.
As of Friday, the statue of Christ the King, the iconic Holy Land USA letters, and tower of babel were cleared of debris.
Fitzpatrick said they're still looking for some big donors to handle the roads and parking lots. But as for the restoration and clean-up, Fitzpatrick said he is confident the volunteers can get it done.
"It’s all relative. I know people who get exhausted just looking at it,” Fitzpatrick said. “Look in one day we stripped it down. We’re going to get a new roof on, and then we'll have people getting new gates up here and stuff."
Fitzpatrick said they're looking for volunteers of all skill levels, they're going to be out at the Holy Land on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
If you want to volunteer in the future, you can email Fitzpatrick at William.firstname.lastname@example.org
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