A Visit to the Garden of Eden – Part 1: Exterior

The Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas, is not your average historic house museum.  It is considerably more surreal than that.  And much more memorable.  Built by Civil War veteran S. P. Dinsmoor, the house itself was completed in 1907; the sculptures were a work-in-progress until 1928.  Dinsmoor’s “Cabin Home” was built of native limestone which was cut to resemble hewn logs.  They were laid in the same manner as the logs of a log cabin – complete with notched corners.  He made great use of wire-reinforced concrete in the surrounding sculptural works, secondary structures, as well as on the house itself.

The fantastic concrete sculptures which surround the house appear to have served two purposes; they were an expression of Dinsmoor’s various philosophies and beliefs but were also conceived as a kind of tourist attraction which would provide income in retirement.  People are still enjoying his work after more than a century; the house and grounds are a refreshing break from an increasingly mundane world.  The Garden of Eden has benefitted from an extensive and professional restoration by the Kohler Foundation in 2011 in recognition of the site’s profound cultural, historic and artistic value.  This post features the exterior; a follow-up post will show the interior of the house.  The town of Lucas is, appropriately, recognized as the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas and home to the Grassroots Art Center, also well worth a visit!

 

Samuel Perry Dinsmoor’s “Cabin Home” in the Garden of Eden.

 

Adam and Eve.

 

Biblical scene.

 

Detail of entrance gate.  Many of the sculptures, such as these birds, were wired for illumination at night! The Devil is below them.

 

Biblical scene in foreground.

 

Detail of cement gable above limestone “logs”.  The door opens to a short flight of steps into the basement.

 

The brick chimney is not normal, either.

 

Political perspective wrought in concrete.

 

Main entrance to house.

 

The spindles of the concrete porch were formed in glass bottles.

 

Detail of “log” corners.

 

The front porch makes use of limestone as well as reinforced concrete.

 

A concrete carriage step was shaped to resemble a tree stump.

 

Concrete and wire animal pens in the back yard.

 

Concrete fence.

 

Concrete and wire fence.

 

Pyramidal forms were used in both the limestone tomb and adjacent raised flower beds.  Yes – Dinsmoor and his first wife are still on the premises.

 

Rear of tomb.

 

Front and side of tomb as seen from alley.

 

Newspaper clipping from 1931.  Image source: accidentalmysteries.blogspot.com

 

4 Responses to A Visit to the Garden of Eden – Part 1: Exterior

  1. What a wild place! I can’t wait to see inside. That picture of the family brings up some interesting questions!

  2. I’ve been there once, many years ago. Strange and fascinating. Find moor must have been an interesting character.

      • I hate “auto-correcting” spellcheck, too! It’s good that Dinsmoor was alive when he was, because being that eccentric today would get you in hot water with the permits and inspection bureaucracy which has since developed. He definitely would have been an interesting guy to know!

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