Temple of Tolerance

Sitting on a 1 acre plot of land at 203 S. Wood Street in Wapakoneta, you’ll find on of the most interesting places in Ohio – The Temple of Tolerance.

This is the work of Jim Bowsher who meant to find a way to help people have a haven. A place where they could reflect.

Starting in 1981, Jim would find rocks, fences and various other items from all over the state of Ohio, truck them back to his land and place them in different orientations to create rock sculptures.

He completed the project in 1999.

Visiting the Temple is free of charge, but donations are accepted at a box found on the front porch of the house.

Sometimes you just have to experience something in order to truly understand or appreciate it. That is the case with the Temple of Tolerance. We thought that the images online do not really do it justice, and we’ll even admit that even our images won’t do it justice.

Honestly, there is something about the place – somewhere between madness and genius. While there is “stuff” everywhere, there is also a kind of direction to the apparent chaos.

Front of the Temple of Tolerance

When we first approached the house, we drove by it twice. We thought we were looking for a park or open space. Dani was apprehensive at going in, the chaotic front of the house made her uneasy. We discussed it and finally decided to just go around the back of the driveway and see if there was more to it or if the front of the house was indicative of the rest.

Yes, indeed, things were different. As a photographer, you could shoot here for months, if not a year and find new things. Season change, light changes, moods change. As a visitor, you could find a new place to sit and reflect almost daily.

Cat was very friendly and just wanted some attention from time to time.

You have various paths that wind about, and there is often multiple ways to go from one area to another. Just when you get to what you perceive is the end of a section, you are lead into another, then another. The grounds are as wide as you’d think they would be looking at the house…but are WAY longer than you think.

Many people visited while we were there. One group sat around and talked, drinking their sodas, while others brought dogs. There was a portrait shoot or 2 and, like in the image above, this mother and her daughter just decided to break out a musical instrument and play along one of the rock formations.

We didn’t get that this place was trying to push one mode of thought or religion. It appeared to try and find a way to embrace everything and nothing at the same time. While some items were placed, it was hard to tell sometimes if it were there to make a statement or as a historical marker of thoughts and happenings of a bygone era.

Maybe that is the beauty of a place like this. It doesn’t force a one thing and try to say here is ‘right’ and here is ‘wrong’. The feeling was more, here are some ideas and what do you think or feel about it? A way to bring about an open dialogue for discussion and less about making up your mind or coming to absolute terms.

It is interesting to see also, the sign below. The Temple of Tolerance has no admission fee. Jim Bowsher did not want any money for what he did, but they needed to make concession for those that wanted to donate.

Final thoughts? If you are ever even close to Wapakoneta, visit here. Go in with an open mind and see what a place like this says to you. Even if you are not “into it”, we think that there is something here that will speak to you. No matter what you go in with, you’ll leave with experience of something you’ve probably never seen before or may never again.

We were thinking of running our readers through a “tour” of grounds, but a place like this really begs for one to explore it on their own without outside guidance. Let your spirit guide you to where it needs to go.

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