Garden of EdenS.P. Dinsmoor (1843 - 1932)
About the Artist/Site
Twenty-two miles east of Paradise, Kansas, and eleven miles north of Hell Creek in the same state, lies S.P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden and “stone log cabin” home, in the small city of Lucas.
Born in Coolville, Ohio, Dinsmoor was a Civil War soldier who witnessed the Battle of Gettysburg and the surrender of General Lee. Later, he farmed and taught school in Illinois. In 1888, he moved just outside of Lucas to farm with his first wife, a widow, and her two children. The couple had five more children. By 1905, Dinsmoor had retired and moved into the city of Lucas to begin construction of a stone, log cabin-style home. When the building was complete, the 66-year-old artist turned to ornamenting the grounds, eventually sculpting more than 150 cement figures on his one-half acre plot.
Dinsmoor’s grouped scenes explore conflict: good versus evil, real life versus its artificial representation, biblical accounts versus scientific findings, workers versus bosses. The west side of the house displays biblical images, while the north and east sides depict modern civilization. Using simple tools and building on site, the artist surrounded his home with concrete “trees” that rose to 46 feet; he populated them with large-scale, detailed figures. Dinsmoor left these sculptures mostly unpainted, save for a red stain he used to represent Abel’s blood, women’s skirts, and the stripes on the three American flags. He installed his own electric-light plant underneath the back porch, which allowed him to illuminate the house, his sculptures, and the surrounding grounds.
Dinsmoor worked for 22 years on his Garden, financed in part by a clerical error that gave him an extra monthly pension check from the government. A widower at age 74, he married his 20-year-old neighbor seven years later. They had two children. After Dinsmoor died, his widow allowed tours of the house and grounds until 1941, when she moved out of state to seek employment. The property was eventually sold for back taxes, and the house was subdivided into apartments. For many years the site remained unkempt and vines covered the sculptures. In 1967, the owners of a Lucas hardware company, Wayne and Louella Naegle, and a local banker, Rex Dewey, purchased the Garden of Eden and restored it. The Naegles later purchased Dewey’s share; through their efforts the site was listed in 1977 on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1989, the Naegles sold the Garden of Eden to a small group of preservationists devoted to the site. Tours are available for a small fee year round, though tour hours vary throughout the year.
~Jo Farb Hernández, 2011
SPACES Archives Holdings
The SPACES archive contains Dinsmoor’s booklet and the following:
Clippings, correspondence, Nat’l Register Nomination form (1976), maps, pamplets, booklets, postcards, photographic prints, slides and negatives (1975- )
Map & Site Information
201 S Kansas Ave
Lucas, Kansas, 67648 us
Latitude/Longitude: 39.0580688 / -98.5353948