A Little Bit of Heaven…in Davenport, Iowa

February 24, 2008 at 6:04 pm 4 comments

(Photo at the entrance of the now dismantled garden)

A Little Bit of Heaven—Bartlett Joshua “B.J.” Palmer 


Folk art environment and rock garden

Davenport, Iowa  |   dismantled in 1981, traces remain

While running the risk of sounding like a broken record – I have to say it was yet another cold cold cold weekend in the Midwest (1 degree on Saturday morning).  Cabin fever is getting to me – so once again, I jumped in my car on Friday and this time  headed to northeast Iowa, namely the Quad Cities.  (Davenport, IA,  Moline, IL,  Bettendorf, IA,  and Rock Island, IL…in case you were wondering)

(Wishing Buddha, 10 ft high, and 3 tons makes it one of the largest buddhas in the US.  Purchased in 1927, the Japanese government attempted to block its removal.  It took B.J. over 7 years to persuade the officials by promising that the sculpture would be given the proper respect.  It is said that up until the dismantling of the garden, incense was burned 24 hours a day.  “Wishing is often the father and the mother to the birth of a deed.” —B.J. Palmer)

Visions of ice and snow packed roads deterred heading up to visit Dan Slaughter, so I decided to see if I could find any “remains” of the legendary Little Bit of Heaven, built by the father of Chiropractic, B. J. Palmer.  Not only was B.J. the creator of modern chiropractic medicine, he also was a “charismatic visionary and self-promoter” as well as an art collector.  
After suffering a nervous breakdown n 1922, he began the construction of a garden to showcase his sculpture collection gathered from worldwide travels.  For years, A Little Bit of Heaven was a popular Davenport tourist attraction.  Sadly, not much is left of the original site, except a few of the objects d’ arte that he collected, totem poles from Alaska, a few Chinese bronzes in hand-built creches/grottos, and the suggestions of a rock pond that once was the home to real alligators.  
(Top of the Wishing Buddha grotto)
During it’s heyday, A Little bit of Heaven was meant to recreate “Heaven on Earth” offered visitors a chance to ponder the ways the chiropractic medicine tapped into “deeper beliefs that simplistic notions of mechanistic modern medicine” while enjoying art from a corners of the world…and a few alligators in the pond.  
(Alaskan Totem Poles)
Today, a stroll through the campus, the remains of A Little Bit of Heaven, and its buildings, you can stop and ponder Palmer’s insights inscribed on the walls…
“Is life worth living?  That depends on the liver.”  
“Who can anchor to an unanchored mind?”
“Unassuming simplicity is an emblem of nobility.”
“To know is to disbelieve.  When we disbelieve, we know.”
“They will talk anyway.”

and my very favorite:
“Is it better for us to eat together than each other?”

(the following images are from the Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi)
(Former entrance to the Garden)

(Gift shop kiosk, behind the kiosk is a path leading to the Wishing Buddha)
(Guest register with petrified wood and tall columns of geodes)
(Tropical Gardens)

(Earlier entrance to the garden)

Entry filed under: a little bit of heaven, bj palmer, grotto, palmer chiropractic, small town.

Linvel Barker cat! A Little Bit of Heaven…in Davenport, Iowa

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rosemary Gartin Callen  |  February 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    This morning my sister called from Iowa saying a girl remembered my parents taking she, another girl and their own two kids to see Little Bit of Heaven. What memories it brought back. I so wish I could have taken my son and Granddaughter to see it. It was a sight to behold. I saw it about 60 years ago.

  • 2. mamaalice55  |  March 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I found a guide bood of A Little Bit of Heaven and The Wishing Buddha. If you would like it, I would be glad to send it to you.

  • 3. Carol Stone  |  April 28, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    I have a little pair of brass cowboy boots that say “Little Bit of Heaven, Davenport Iowa” on them. Could you tell me a little bit about them…Thanks

  • 4. andy  |  October 25, 2013 at 10:54 am

    i found an old post card with a picture of “Little bit of Heaven” and was wondering. I’m sorry I won’t be able to see the real thing.


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