Mt. Helix Park History
Mt. Helix Park,
the "Crown Jewel of East County,"
is truly a unique and historic site.
Built as a memorial to Mary Carpenter Yawkey,
Mt. Helix Park with its huge outdoor Amphitheatre nestled into the
hillside below the magnificent 35-foot-tall Christian Cross crowning
this 1,370 foot mountain peak, is one of the most recognized
landmarks in San Diego County.
Plaque dedication ceremony
Cyrus Yawkey and Mary Yawkey White
In 1923, Mary Yawkey White asked Colonel Fletcher if he would sell the summit of M. Helix to her so that she could create a memorial to her mother, Mary Carpenter Yawkey. Though the Colonel had previously declined to sell the property, in 1924, he and his family gave the six acres atop Mt. Helix to the Whites out of friendship and support for their vision to create a memorial to Mrs. White’s mother.
From 1924 to just before Easter 1925, the building of the amphitheatre and cross were accomplished with the help of renowned local architect, Richard Requa, who gained notoriety for his design work on the 1915 Panama-Exposition buildings in Balboa Park, and San Francisco landscape architect, Emerson Knight. Mary and her husband, Fred, together with Mary’s brother Cyrus Carpenter Yawkey, a successful Wausau, Wisconsin businessman, spend more than $100,000 to build the memorial park and amphitheatre.
Inspiration for the Park
Turn of the century
In the early 1900's Mary Carpenter Yawkey, who lived in Saginaw, Michigan, started visiting her daughter in San Diego and then lived with her during the last few years of her life. At that time Mt. Helix was barren, void of trees, and completely undeveloped, but according to Cyrus, his mother "loved to ascend to the summit and look upon the beautiful panorama of mesa, hills and sea spread out before her. It was her favorite drive, and frequently, in her later years, with a reverent and true love of nature, she came up the steep, winding trail where she might see the sunset in all its glory from the high summit."
Fletchers & Yawkeys
After the death of Mrs. Yawkey, three prominent and highly regarded families, the Whites, the Yawkeys and the Fletchers, shaped the vision for the Park. In 1917, Colonel Ed Fletcher, a successful businessman and visionary developer who owned the summit of Mt. Helix suggested that Easter sunrise services be held in the natural “bowl” on the eastern face of the mountain. Since then, the Easter sunrise service, which is rotated among various Christian churches in the area, has been held there every year. It is considered the second oldest continuous Easter sunrise service in the country.
Col. Ed Fletcher circa 1924