Garden Of Eden – The Vision of S.P. Dinsmoor

Garden Of Eden – The Vision of S.P. Dinsmoor

We are pretty sure that most of you have heard of the Garden of Eden, but did you know there is one in Lucas, Kansas? When we first found out about this uniquely Kansas attraction, we knew a visit was in store. Samuel Dinsmoor, the creator of this site, built his masterpiece at an age when most people are resigned to rest. While there were varying opinions of the man from local townspeople, his accomplishment definitely helped to put Lucas on the tourism map.

We would like to thank the Lucas Chamber of Commerce and Garden of Eden for their hospitality. Rest assured all opinions are our own.

Samuel Dinsmoor built his home and exterior structures using hand tools commonly found at the turn of the century.

S.P. Dinsmoor’s Unsettling Background

Born in the mid-1800’s, Dinsmoor’s eclectic background fueled the inspiration for the Garden of Eden. While serving as a nurse in the Civil War, he was exposed to the horrors of warfare, as he witnessed the sight of the slaughter. This forced him to seek understanding of the driving forces behind humankind. He joined the Masons, which was listed among the free-thought organizations that investigated a variety of scientific theories. After retiring from teaching in Kansas, he began a second career as a sculptor. By now he was in his 60’s, but age would not slow down his drive and desire to create. Using hand tools and limestone quarried nearby, he constructed his twelve room “log” cabin.

The limestone "log" cabin that Dinsmoor constructed to show tourists to Lucas, kansas.

The notion behind his build, was for it to be more than just a residence. Located near the town’s train station, Dinsmoor envisioned the home to be a money making attraction funded by travelers. It would be almost impossible to miss the garden and its 40-foot tall concrete sculptures.  The quarried stones, some up to 20-feet long, were transported from nearby Wilson Lake by wagon. He dovetailed the corners to resemble a log cabin, and used concrete to sandwich the layers.

Our tour guide was a granddaughter from Dinsmoor's second wife, who he married during construction of the Garden of Eden.

Unique Building Design

Once you pass inside, the uniqueness continues. Our tour of the home was given by a descendant from his second wife. Dinsmoor married her grandmother when he was 81 years old, and she was his 20 year old housekeeper. As the story of Dinsmoor continued to unfold, we began to realize just how amazing the accomplishments of this untrained builder were. On the main floor of the home, Dinsmoor used redwood, walnut, and oak to create elaborate moulding. No two windows or doors in the house are the same size. This meant that every one of them had to be custom built.

The home Dinsmoor constructed in Lucas, kansas had many unique features.

The home was the first in the town of Lucas to have electricity and running water. It would later be discovered that he had tapped into the city’s water main. When you consider Dinsmoor’s lack of formal training, it makes his construction even more impressive.

One of the twelve rooms in the home that S.P. Dinsmoor constructed in Lucas, Kansas.

The monies raised from tours helped supplement the ongoing construction of the “garden”. Dinsmoor lived a fairly frugal lifestyle, which allowed him to pour as much as he could into his plans. All of the quirkiness in his design helped add intrigue, which he used to feed his tourism demand. Always a bit of a showman, Dinsmoor would nag those who gathered to view from afar. After all, he hadn’t worked this hard to miss out on potential revenue.

Dinsmoor's early pieces focused on sharing his religious beliefs with visitors.

Building His Garden of Eden

With his house complete, Dinsmoor turned his focus on creating his “garden”. He assembled concrete “trees”, up to 40 feet tall, to support his creations. All of the structures were made by Dinsmoor, who only employed an assistant to help mix the 113 tons of concrete. His first sculptures focused on biblical subjects. His depiction of Cain and Abel is overseen by a fiery eyed devil, as well as an open armed angel. Incorporating light into his pieces helped add an additional layer of intrigue, as well as helping to draw visitors after sunset.

The details in the grassroots artwork is amazing to see up close at the Garden of Eden.

A Shift In Focus

Over time, he would shift his direction to focus more on the the political atmosphere of those days. Some believe it was the Ludlow Massacre, in Colorado, that sparked Dinsmoor’s change in direction. Across the front of the home is a series of pieces that show the “chain of destruction”. A soldier draws a bead on a native Indian, who is in the process of aiming himself. We followed the chain as it moved to smaller and smaller targets. Eventually it ends with a bird preparing to feed on a caterpillar eating a leaf.

Dinsmoor believed Trusts were destroying the fabric of the everyday man's life.

Dinsmoor’s political commentary continues with pieces focused on highlighting the struggles of the common man. With the Depression looming on the horizon, big business was seen by many to be a threat to modern civilization. One piece depicts the fight between Liberty and Trusts, while another shows Rights being split by a handsaw, labeled ballot. His campaign against Trust continues with a piece showing it as an octopus bent on destroying the world.

The "Labor Crucified" sculpture is the final work by S.P. Dinsmoor.

His final piece was designed to depict the crucifiction of Labor. Unfortunately, time caught up with Dinsmoor and the pieces were unfinished at the time of his death, at 89 years of age. Over the years after his death, the site fell into disrepair. In 2012, the Kohler Foundation chose this important collection of grassroots art for a restoration project. Months of labor, involved clearing trees, removing mold, and restoring the pigment tint to the concrete pieces helped bring these works back to life.

Crystal examines the mausoleum where Dinsmoor was laid to rest.

Defiant In Death

Our tour finished at the 40-foot mausoleum Dinsmoor erected prior to his death. His body rests above his first wife’s , which he removed from the city cemetery without permission. He encased her casket in concrete to prevent city officials from removing it. Inside the crypt, we found Dinsmoor laid out in a concrete casket with a glass cover. While some may not want to visit this last sight, it was Dinsmoor himself who left instructions in his Will that he be part of the tour. Always a showman, he was confident that visitors would want to see the person behind the construction of this version of the Garden of Eden. With our tour complete, we thanked our guide for the wonderful stories of this unique individual. As we moved about town, we would catch sight of some of the pieces above the rooftops. It was a clear reminder that age does not have to be a restriction of creativity. Do you think you would want to visit this uniquely Kansas site?

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By |2018-12-26T09:43:50+00:00December 26th, 2018|Central US, Kansas, Lucas|20 Comments

About the Author:

We are Jeff and Crystal, a Baby Boomer couple who love exploring this big blue marble we all call home. After spending the first portion of our lives together raising a family, the empty-nest syndrome finally caught up with us. This has given us the opportunity to spend more time traveling, and seeking out new destinations. We developed this travel blog with the goal of showing how we “Visit Like A Local”. Our itineraries are designed to get us off the interstates, and into the heart of the places we visit. We believe this will allow our readers to choose a cultural experience, and eventually head home with a real flavor of the places they visit. We hope you are enjoying our website and will consider sharing it with your friends. Please come back often, as we post new articles three times per week.

20 Comments

  1. Charles McCool December 26, 2018 at 7:58 am - Reply

    This place looks so whimsical. Surprise to learn that it is in Kansas. The name Dinsmoor attracted my attention because I have run across it in family history research. I will have to see if there is a connection.

    • Jeff & Crystal December 26, 2018 at 9:37 am - Reply

      It is truly a magical destination. So much folk art spread throughout the town.

  2. Doreen Pendgracs December 26, 2018 at 8:13 am - Reply

    Very cool! I had no idea there is a Garden of Eden in Kansas! Thx so much for insight into the life of S.P. Dinsmoor. Happy Holidays to you!

    • Jeff & Crystal December 26, 2018 at 9:38 am - Reply

      It just proves that there are amazing finds to be discovered in some of the most unexpected locations.

  3. Lori December 26, 2018 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    This is really wild. Who knew? We love these places that have been created by eccentrics and artists from bygone days. Now we’ll have to read-up on Dinsmoor. Thanks for the tour.

    • Jeff & Crystal December 26, 2018 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      So glad you enjoyed it. The man was certainly different. You will be amazed at what you find out.

  4. Cathy Sweeney December 26, 2018 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    Yes, I absolutely would like to visit the Garden of Eden! What a story and what a guy, that S.P. Dinsmoor. Very interesting about his personal life, creativity, and eccentricity.

    • Jeff & Crystal December 26, 2018 at 3:19 pm - Reply

      We hope you get a chance to visit. The photos only tell part of the story.

  5. Carol Colborn December 29, 2018 at 7:04 am - Reply

    We will be going to Pittsburg Ks in October next year. I hope Lucas is accessible from the route we will take from Phoenix. I have to see this unusual home and garden! Thanks.

    • Jeff & Crystal December 30, 2018 at 7:48 am - Reply

      It’s a little farther north and west, but there are some other amazing sights that can be seen along the way. You may want to check out our Council Grove and Abilene articles for ideas.

  6. Rachel December 29, 2018 at 11:09 am - Reply

    I wish I’d known about Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden when I passed through Kansas many years ago. Its quirkiness sounds right up my alley!

  7. Cindy Carlsson December 29, 2018 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    That’s a stone cabin? Wow. Very cool – the kind of place I would like. Thanks for the great story and pictures!

    • Jeff & Crystal December 30, 2018 at 7:49 am - Reply

      Yeah, it kind of surprised us, as well. From the street it’s hard to tell.

  8. Karen Warren December 30, 2018 at 2:59 am - Reply

    Dinsmoor’s house looks wonderfully eccentric – my kind of place! I’ll make sure to visit if I ever get to Kansas.

  9. Ryan K Biddulph January 2, 2019 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Amazing how one man built this. But then again, if you witnessed that hellish nightmare, you better believe you will feel and clear fears that will aid you in doing amazing things. Awesome story!

    • Jeff & Crystal January 3, 2019 at 5:11 am - Reply

      So true. We cannot even begin to imagine the nightmares that he saw during the war.

  10. Jackie K Smith January 4, 2019 at 3:26 am - Reply

    What a quirky, fun place this Garden of Eden on earth. A fun tour you gave us! Happy New Year to you and continued Happy Travels!!

    • Jeff & Crystal January 4, 2019 at 5:06 am - Reply

      So glad that you enjoyed it. Perhaps you will visit for yourself some day. Travel safely!

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