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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Salvation Mountain: Leonard Knight's Labor of Love

Leonard Knight had a burning desire to share the message, "God is love."  After attempting and failing to make a hot air balloon out of sheets, he turned to cement and paint to share what he believes.

While living in the back of
a pick up truck, Leonard
started constructing the
message on the side of a
forgotten riverbank near
Niland, California.

Leonard brought in trash from the dump to build up his "mountain."  He used cement, painted "God is Love," added bright designs and other religious messages.

When his supply of cement ran
 low, Leonard used sand to
 stretch the material.

After four years the mountain
collapsed & Leonard turned to
adobe as he started over again.

Leonard accepted donations of paint.  He prefers acrylic paint and estimates that more than 100,000 gallons have been donated.  Over the years he has repainted the mountain numerous times.  The paint keeps the adobe from eroding.

The mountain grew to 50 
feet in height & 150 
feet across.

One of several vehicles
with Leonard's message.

As part of an attempt to turn Slab City into a fee-based campground in 1994,  Imperial County sent a toxic waste engineer to Salvation Mountain to take soil samples.  The results of testing showed high levels of lead at Salvation Mountain.  The county's plan was to have Salvation Mountain declared a toxic waste site and to have it dismantled.

Leonard hired soil engineers to check the soil and the results were markedly different.  The soil samples did not show high levels of lead.  In the meantime,  local residents and snowbirds who come to the area every winter signed petitions to save Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain survived.  The Folk Art Society of America designated Salvation Mountain as a National Folk Art Site on January 1, 2001.  Senator Barbara Boxer entered Salvation Mountain into the Congressional Record as a national treasure in 2002.

One section of the mountain
is open to walk through.

A decorated hogan
repeats the message
"God is Love."

Health problems forced Leonard to move to Niland in 2011.  He returns to Salvation Mountain occasionally and is pleased to see that the message remains brightly painted... "God is Love."  Salvation Mountain, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit has been created to preserve Leonard's work.

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