Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Great Pyramid of Bedford-Needmore, Indiana

Largely forgotten in the woods of rural Indiana, the Great Pyramid of Bedford-Needmore is a monument to poor planning coupled with government spending.  Little more than a disorganized pile of stones, this is all that remains of $700,000.00 effort to build a limestone "amusement park" near the so-called Limestone Capital of America, Bedford Indiana.

Entrance gate, a little worse for the wear.  A large stone plinth is on each side, made out limestone, naturally.
This strange story begins in 1979, when someone in the town of Bedford, Indiana began a desperate search for some sort of new revenue, ultimately settling on the idea of separating tourists from their hard earned money.  This idea had worked for many towns and cities across the United States.  Las Vegas, Panama City, Niagra and so on; these cities each and all draw much of their revenue from outsiders.  However, and this is a big however, they all have some sort of attraction, be it gambling, prostitution, or even something as simple as the beach. 

Long ruined entrance sign, for the long abandoned park.
How was little Bedford to compete with these heavyweights?  Lacking a beach, the project seemed to die before it even had a chance to be born...But, what if there was a solution laying just below the surface of the verdant fields surrounding the city?  A limestone theme park was the obvious answer.  

A small pile of finish cut Bedford stone, perhaps from the park project.

While crazy, this idea isn't totally without thought.  Bedford, it seems, its built on top of what is perhaps one of the best limestone deposits in North America.  From the Pentagon to the Empire State Building, to a house in your neighborhood, Bedford's tight grained and pale colored limestone is a very desirable good.  For decades now, this town has been shipping blocks of itself, both large and small, all over the US to be used in construction projects.  But a pyramid?

Small pyramid located on an entrance plinth.  This is perhaps the best pyramid on the site.
Ruins of pyramid, broken off of other plinth.

After much thought, the city decided to focus on this construction history, and build a tourist attraction that would both feature and show off the stone that made the city so notable.  The hope being, of course, that people from near and far would drive to Bedford to take in the limestone scenery.  To this end, they decided to build both a 1/5 scale copy of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, as well as a large section of the Great Wall of China.  Funding was secured from the U.S. government, to the tune of nearly three-quarters of a million dollars, and construction soon began.  While advertised as being in Bedford, the actual site is located in the small neighboring town of Needmore, situated in the middle of an open pit mine.
Google maps image of pyramid site.  The blue arrow is pointing to the base of the great pyramid, while the red arrow is pointing to a smaller funeral-type pyramid.  Stones are scattered around the abandoned site.
All was not well though.  As soon as the project made the news, Democratic Senator William Proxmire gave the project a "Golden Fleece" award for its perceived waste.  This ignoble honor, coupled with a depletion of the funds caused the project to be abandoned, and nothing has been done on the site for almost thirty years.

Rough step shape of pyramid, featuring trees and vines.

Side view of small pyramid.  These are VERY large stones, each one weighing several tons.  They are very rough hewn as well, making one wonder how nice the structure would've actually looked when complete.

Base of "great" pyramid, as seen from afar.

To be honest, the most impressive bit of this site is the aerial photography of it.  Most of what remains is jumbled stones, roughly thrown into stacks, covered with trees and other foliage.

Base, as seen from standing on it.  Yup, that's it....

While the small pyramid actually has a few steps that form a basic shape, the large pyramid is just a giant stone square.  They dug down 17 feet to reach bedrock, but built very little above ground.  Nothing of the Great Wall could be found, and the general disarray of the site makes exploring it rather difficult.

Railbed ruins.
The site is also covered with the obvious remains of its days as an active mine.  A small section of rail remains, along with some truck tires and piles of cut but unused stone.  If they truly spent $700,000.00 on the project, I have no idea where it went.  One thing is for sure though, these ruins will be on site for decades to come, provided that they are hauled away to be used in a building near you.

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  1. This could have been an interesting attraction. Oh well. Thanks for sharing these photos of what remains of the project.

  2. Hi there, I'm working on a story about the pyramids for The Elkhart Truth newspaper and I was wondering if I could use one of these photos for our website. I would give the photographer credit and link to this blog post within the story. Please let me know by emailing me at Thanks!

  3. I remember the project well, and still have several of the original brochures.

    1. could we see a copy of one of the brochures? my email address is if you could send me a soft copy. I used to have one it was a trifold with writing on both side. It had a site layout with helopads.

  4. can you post one of the brochures.