H. G. “Ben” Hartman, Hartman Rock Garden
1905 Russell Avenue , Springfield, Ohio, 45506, us
Open 365 days a year during daylight hours for self-guided tours. Guided tours offered during the summer with dates posted on their website
About the Artist/Site
In 1932, during the height of the Great Depression, Harry George “Ben” Hartman (1883-1944) began building a rock garden after losing his job as an iron molder. Starting small with the creation of a cement fishing pond, over the next decade, with time, cement and thousands and thousands of rocks, Hartman filled his yard in Springfield, Ohio with over fifty fascinating sculptures and figures.
Many of Hartman’s rock pieces replicate real places; they reveal the importance he placed on patriotism, community, religion, and the popular culture of the day, with rock memorials replicating the White House, the Liberty Bell, and Noah’s Ark. One excellent piece that exemplifies Hartman’s themes is the Tree of Life, a nearly seven-foot-tall sculpture that includes a church, a school, and a bald eagle, representing his love of his country and his church. Other pieces show a sense of whimsy, including a twelve-foot-tall castle with a moat, small-scale replicas of armies at war, and figures of celebrities, such as the boxer Joe Louis. Secreted around the yard, rewarding the observant visitor, are tableaux and figurines recreating dozens of popular stories and fables.
Hartman was finally rehired in 1939 and work on his garden slowed. He intended to expand it, creating works illustrating landmarks from all over the world, but passed away in 1944 prior to doing so. Hartman’s wife, Mary, took care of the garden for the next five decades, until she passed in 1997.
Years of neglect took their toll, until 2008, when Kohler Foundation, Inc. (Kohler, WI) purchased the site and began a project to preserve Hartman’s achievement. After successfully overseeing the conservation of the site, the Foundation transferred ownership to the Friends of the Hartman Rock Garden, a nonprofit organization, who now maintain the environment. Visitors can now enjoy the rock garden from dawn to dusk daily for self-guided tours, or for guided tours, for which there is a requested $10 donation per person, scheduled throughout the summer.
Map & Site Information
1905 Russell Avenue
Springfield, Ohio, 45506 us
Latitude/Longitude: 39.904978 / -83.832466