Garden of Hope was the dream of the Reverend Morris H. Coers, pastor
of Immanuel Baptist Church in Covington. Coers was inspired by a 1938
visit to the Holy Land. He knew that many in the Greater Cincinnati
area would never have the opportunity to visit oversees, so he decided
to bring a bit of the Holy Land to Northern Kentucky. In 1956, he publicly
declared his intention to build a replica of Jesus’ tomb. A 2.5-acre
plot of land was found on Edgecliff Avenue in Covington’s west
end. The site not only offered a private refuge for meditation, but
also a spectacular view of Covington and downtown Cincinnati.
the late fall of 1956, work began on the Garden of Hope. The services
of A.H. Armbruster were acquired to design the complex. The centerpiece
of the garden was the replica of Jesus tomb in Jerusalem (45 x 22’).
Another feature of the garden was the carpenter’s shop. The shop
contained historic carpenter’s tools that were donated to the
Garden of Hope by Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. The interior
of the carpenter’s shop was decorated with a mural executed by
local artist LeRoy Coastes. The mural depicted the lives of carpenters
in Palestine. The upper floor of the building contained a gift shop
that sold items from the Holy land. The third building on the site was
called the Chapel of Dreams. This structure was modeled after a 17th
Century Spanish Mission. The interior of the chapel was adorned with
a stained glass window from Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati. The
façade of the structure contained three bells. The chapel was
open for private prayer and was the site of numerous weddings. The grounds
of the garden were planted with thousands of plants and trees, many
of which were native to the Holy Land. Other features of the garden
included an Italian marble statue of Jesus delivering the “Sermon
on the Mount” and a large stone from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
The Garden of Hope was officially open to the public on Palm Sunday
In the early days of operation, the Garden of Hope was open to the public.
The Chapel of Dreams became a popular site for weddings and the tomb
was used by various denominations for religious events and sunrise Easter
Garden of Hope, however, lost its greatest supporter in 1960 with the
death of Reverend Morris Coers. Reverend Coers died on February 24th
at the age of 52. Coers was laid to rest in the garden. Without Coers’
guidance, the Garden of Hope lost its driving force. A committee was
established at Immanuel Baptist Church to maintain and operate the garden.
Immanuel Baptist, however, was suffering from declining enrollment due
to urban flight. The church simply could not provide the funds to properly
maintain the site. In addition, the garden was located in a remote area
of the city and was prone to vandalism. The vandalism became so severe,
that Reverend Coers’ window, Vernice, had his body disinterred
and moved to Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell.
By the mid-1960s, Immanuel Baptist began discussing ways to provide
better funding for the garden. Initially, they looked into turning over
the garden to the Commonwealth of Kentucky as a tourist attraction.
The state showed some interest but declined the offer due to the conflict
of church and state. In 1967, a nonprofit group was established to maintain
and operate the Garden of Hope. The group, however, was not successful.
Another non-profit group was established in 1970 with similar goals.
This group too proved ineffective. In February 1971, the garden reverted
to Immanuel Baptist. At that time, the garden maintained an indebtedness
During 1993, several Northern Kentucky families took interest in restoring
the Garden of Hope. These individuals included Ted and Jean Padgett,
Donna and Mike Sheehy, Wanda and Ed Hodge and Bill McMillan. Much of
the vandalism was repaired and the garden was weeded and maintained.
In 1996, a Christmas program was held in the Garden. The garden was
rededicated on Palm Sunday 1998. The activities included several sermons
and musical selections performed by the choir of St. Patrick Catholic
Church of Taylor Mill, Kentucky. At this time, the Garden of Hope was
again open on a daily basis for private prayer and tourism.
Kentucky Post, May 22, 1971, January 1, 1993, p. 4K, March 25, 1998,
p. 1KK; Western Recorder, September 15, 1998, p. 1; Cincinnati Enquirer,
May 23, 1971, and a Brochure in the files of the Kenton County Public