Daily Egyptian

Bald Knob Cross unveils observation deck, history learning center

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Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

(Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

(Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Tierra Carpenter

Bald Knob Cross unveiled an array of renovations Saturday that will allow visitors to have a better vantage point to see surrounding nature and learn about the location’s history.

The changes include a new observation deck and bunkers at the base of the cross that share a timeline of the landmark’s construction.

Teresa Gilbert, executive director of the cross, said the observation deck will let people enjoy what she thinks is the best view on the hillside.

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“You can see as far as Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Missouri. You can see the Cape Girardeau bridge from there. You can see the Mississippi River,” Gilbert said. “It’s just an inspirational place for people to enjoy the view and the absolute beauty of natural creation.”

Gilbert said they make renovations on a continual basis as needed, and other upcoming changes include expanding the parking lot. It currently accommodates 12 to 15 vehicles, she said. 

“We need much more parking than that, and we especially need a place where we can turn around a bus or a large vehicle,” Gilbert said. 

The cross has been a landmark in the region since it was completed in 1963. It took years of fundraising to complete the structure, including a strategy that challenged people to raise pigs, sell them and turn the profits over the cross. This campaign raised $30,000 for its construction, according to its website. The new historical timeline at the cross tells this history and more. 

The cross is over 111 feet tall and according to its website, Bald Knob Mountain — which the cross sits atop — is the highest point in southern Illinois.

Their mission is “to provide a place where all people can unite to experience the presence of God, regardless of their denomination, regardless of their beliefs,” Gilbert said.

She said visitors come from all over the world to find solace or peace, and it is also used for wedding and church celebrations.

“It provides a multitude of needs for people at different seasons and different times in their life,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said the welcome center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but visitors can come to the cross from 8 a.m. until dark.

Kristin Doty, a senior from Herrin studying theater, came to see the cross Saturday for the first time with her boyfriend.

She said they often take trips exploring the southern Illinois region, and she has added the cross to her list of the most breathtaking views in the area.

“It’s a lot more impressive than I expected,” Doty said. “I didn’t know there was going to be such an awesome view.”

Another visitor on Saturday, 64-year-old Charray Palmer of Anna, said she has been to the cross many times and counts it as one of the most interesting places in the area

“From pigs to a local landmark. … It’s very unique,” Palmer said. “That’s why it’s worth telling through the storyboards. I’m glad to see that the project is getting done.”

Tierra Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] or @tierramc_.

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