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Jacob “Jake” Baker, Home Environment

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Visiting Information

The sculpture is in the permanent collection of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, but is not always on view.

About the Artist/Site

Extant facts about Jacob Baker’s life are sparse. Known as Jake, he was a bachelor carpenter who built houses throughout the beautiful rolling Mississippi River valley near Menominee, Illinois.  Sometime in the late 1920s he began to create small houses out of wood, which he made beautiful and engaging by covering them with concrete and decorative objects from household life.  We don’t know how many he made, but a smaller cross-gabled house sculpture, with softer lines and fewer objects, was found in Menominee, Illinois in the early 1990s, and an embellished star was also found in the same region.

The Victorian period had broken up by the 1920s, but the objects remained.  Baker made good use of the cultural leftovers. One of his cross-gabled houses, no more than four feet in any dimension, contains the china souvenirs of a lifetime, perhaps several.  The structure is dense with tiny figurines: a Virgin Mary appears in each pediment and again in unexpected places; watchdogs bark at camels and cockatoos; cats clutch at the rooftop. Pagodas stick out everywhere. This house had graced the lobby of the DeSoto House Hotel in Galena, Illinois for some years and was in two locations in Elizabeth, Illinois, from the early 1970s to 1993, when it was moved to a private collection in Wisconsin. It was gifted to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wis. in 2006. After a complete restoration it was added to the Art Center’s permanent collection.

~Lisa Stone



Map and site information

608 New York Ave
Sheboygan, Wisconsin, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 43.752017 / -87.710423

Visiting Information

The sculpture is in the permanent collection of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, but is not always on view.

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