- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - From its rich ancient history as an Adena mound to decades in the early 1900s as the home of the elaborate marble Caldwell Monument, Gobbler’s Knob’s panoramic view of the city and the river have long been a magnet of human activity.

These days, the scenic spot that sits above the Ritter Park Amphitheater has turned a new and reflective chapter as Charles and Jen Holley have re-imagined the space as the home of a simple stone labyrinth with hopes to stir community support to build a more substantial labyrinth in the near future.

Jen Holley, a local yoga teacher who has been been leading evening summer meditation groups at the site with Charles, said she got the idea to build the labyrinth at that spot several years ago after visiting and enjoying a labyrinth at Merging Hearts in Canton, Ohio, with fellow yoga teacher Jenn Brooks.

“Back in 2012, Jennifer Brooks and I went to a labyrinth in Ohio and got real excited about it and decided we wanted to bring one to Huntington, and even at that time I had gone to the Park District Board and talked about possible spots there would be,” Jen said. “Because of the deteriorating gazebo, which has since been torn down, the spot on top of the hill was not a spot they considered.”

With the gazebo gone and the perennial party spot now an empty canvas, so to speak, Jen and Charles began visiting the spot, bringing rocks and shaping a new vision for the circular scenic area overlooking the city.

“A few months ago, Jennifer (Brooks) asked me to come up there and asked me what I thought of this spot now, and I invited our friends in our meditation group to go up there and meditate one day and just feel it out, and that is when we got excited about it. It felt really powerful up there,” Jen Holley said.

With the blessing of Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District director Kevin Brady, the couple has began leading quiet evening meditations at sunset at the spot and laying out a simple stone circle.

“When we went up there, we laid out those first couple rings and circles loosely to get a feel about what a walking path would look like,” Charles Holley said. “Well, that is when we noticed that every time we go up there, someone else is messing with it and building it. Jen put a whole lot of work into, and someone put 12 stonehenges, and then we made little connections to the inner circle. Everyday, somebody would do something different. Now, it is like this really cool place.”

As the couple saw and felt people’s connection to the space, Charles began designing and laying out a labyrinth to fit the spot.

“I laid it out, and the circle is 100 feet across, and it has a middle circle that is about 25 feet. In the outer circle, I laid out a seven circuit Chartres labyrinth, and I made the walkways three feet wide, and I ended up with a labyrinth that was 1,620 feet long, which is a third of a mile in that space, so it would take a while to do the walk,” Charles Holley said. “That leaves the inner circle that we have been meditating in, intact.”

Jen Holley said it has been exciting to see people’s resonance even with the simple stone design.

“It has been cool, too, because people have been leaving us notes, and people have been leaving flowers. Every day when we go up there, we take pictures of the changes and the things that are there,” Jen Holley said.

Charles, who is the executive director of the city of Huntington’s Department of Development and Planning, has designed many public spaces, including the Central City Market (home now to the Wild Ramp). He has begun researching possibilities of putting a more permanent labyrinth at the site, like they have in many city and church (mostly Episcopal) parks across the United States.

“I have designed the labyrinth initially with a concrete sidewalk, which would probably be pretty expensive, but we are looking at an alternative of using turf grass like they would use on like a golf fairway. That would be nice to do barefooted, and making the outline of it with probably paver stone, and that would be so you could see the outline,” Holley said. “That might a lot more economical and a lot nicer, as it is a park setting and green all around. I think it could be something that the community could get involved with constructing. I think we do it ourselves and there would be more of an ownership to it, instead of just getting a grant and letting the government build it for you.”

While the couple’s quest may be relatively new to Huntington, labyrinth building as a tool for personal and community transformation is an ancient and widespread practice.

According to labyrinth expert and author Jeff Saward of England, there are more than 4,800 labyrinths in 75 or more countries. They are listed on his website, The World-Wide Labyrinth Locator at labyrinthlocator.com .

There are 13 labyrinths in West Virginia, 30 in Kentucky and 127 in Ohio. The closest one to Huntington is St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1105 Quarrier St., Charleston.

While the Holleys are looking into the possibility of going after some grants to help fund the project, which would take an estimated $60,000 for the most elaborate design and the hardiest materials, they have been been finding that more people are interested in the idea.

“We have found out there are really a lot of labyrinths in the 50-mile area. There is one at the Holzer Cancer Center in Gallipolis; there are two in Charleston at churches; there is one at this lady’s house, who is a midwife in Teays Valley; and Hospice of Huntington has a mobile labyrinth that they use and they have been wanting a community labyrinth,” Jen Holley said. “Trinity Episcopal … said they wanted to be a part of that when we build it. So, people are coming out of the woodwork, and I am sure more and more will.”

One interesting side path of researching the Knob has been finding out a good deal of information about how the site was an Adena Mound.

“We started Googling the Knob and then researching it, and found that it was once an Adena Mound and there are other mounds in Huntington reported in The Herald-Dispatch, the one at Camden Park that still exists and one just east of Camden Park that the B&O; destroyed that went along James River Road,” Charles Holley said.

There was one at 13th Street West between Madison Avenue and Jackson Avenue, probably about where Monroe is. It was a 63-foot-circle. Charles and Jen found an article from the Washington Post from 1908 that reported when that mound was excavated the archaeologists found the skeletal remains of a 7-foot-tall person, referred to in the paper as a giant, and had copper bracelets and anklets on.

Unearthing articles about these mounds and an article from 1891 about a Moundbuilders settlement at 15th Street on the Ohio River has made the couple want to include historical markers to inform visitors of the Native American connection.

“I have been reading a lot about it, and it is incredible how complex that community was and that it is almost completely forgotten,” Jen Williams.

All of the work done is great news to Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District director Kevin Brady, whose Park District board recently approved the couple’s ideas to develop the labyrinth.


Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, https://www.herald-dispatch.com

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