just 15 miles north of I-70, sits the tiny town of Lucas. Though the
town has less than 500 residents, it was officially designated as the
"Grassroots Art Capital of
by the governor in 1996.
While there are several grassroots art sites
in this small town, the most famous is the Garden of Eden.
Built by Samuel Perry Dinsmoor, a retired
schoolteacher, Civil War Veteran, and Populist politician, Dinsmoor moved
to Lucas in 1891 and settled on a farm outside of town with his wife.
However, in 1905, at
the age of 62, Dinsmoor bought property in town and set about building
his "creation." The first task at hand was the construction of a
"log cabin,” which wasn’t made of logs at all, rather, the 27 foot
timbers were actually carved from limestone. The artist also built
much of his own furniture, including a desk where he kept his money,
due his extreme distrust in banks.
In no time, passersby
were stopping to look at the unusual house, which Dinsmoor called "the
most unique home for living or dead on Earth." Completed in
1907, the eccentric artist began to give tours of the house the
For the next 22
years, Dinsmoor continuously labored to build his unique "Eden” adding
some 150 different sculptures, representing his interpretation of the
world’s creation, history, and his personal views of political
goings-on. Utilizing 113 tons of concrete over the years, the
eccentric artist created mammoth insects, angels with massive
wingspans, 40 foot tall trees, frolicking children, numerous political
messages, and even a waving concrete American flag.
Life size statues of
Adam and Eve welcomed visitors to his home with Eve offering visitors
an apple. However, the original sculptures so shocked the
townspeople as they portrayed their "natural state," the town leaders
soon forced the artist to cover their "privates" with concrete
"all-seeing-eye-of-God" was hung from a branch on the "tree of life." The "eye" included a hose that ran from the basement of the house so
that Dinsmoor could shout at passersby, pretending to be God speaking
to them. The first to have electricity in the town, Dinsmoor wasted no
time wiring his sculptures so that they could be lit up at night.
Dinsmoor even created his own 40-foot high
pagoda-style stone and concrete mausoleum for himself and his wife.
However, when his wife died, the town insisted that she be interred in
the cemetery rather than the mausoleum. Though Dinsmoor
initially complied, he later dug up her coffin and placed it in a
steel-reinforced crypt in the mausoleum so that she couldn't be moved.
Shortly after Dinsmoor’s
first wife died, the artist married his 20-year old housekeeper in 1924. Eighty-one years old and still going strong, the pair had two children. For his new bride, he built a sculpture of his own face, just outside the
kitchen window, so that she would see him waving at her every day.
Up until just a few years
before his death in 1932, Dinsmoor continued to provide tours of his home
and garden to the many curious people who stopped by for a look. He
even created a tour book for the property.
When the artist died at the age of 89, he left
instructions that he be mummified like an Egyptian and placed in a
glass-topped coffin in the mausoleum. He continues to rest there
today and can still be viewed by visitors.
Today, the Garden of Eden
is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and welcomes some
10,000 visitors a year. The site is owned and operated by a