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Hartman’s Historical Rock Garden, Springfield

When the Great Depression struck and H.G. Hartman found himself unemployed, he turned to stone. No, not like Medusa! From 1932 to 1939, H.G. Hartman built a 35-foot by 140-foot rock garden that contains approximately 250,000 individual stones and which can be seen today at the corner of McCain and Russell Streets in Springfield.

Hartman started with a fishpond and then filled his yard with statues, miniature stone castles with moats and drawbridges, cathedrals complete with statues of saints, and other historic buildings.

There are models of the White House, Independence Hall, Noah’s Ark, Lincoln’s log cabin birthplace, Mount Vernon (including its slave cabins), as well as tributes to boxer Joe Louis and the Dionne Quintuplets (the only identical quintuplets known to have survived infancy at the time). Religious scenes and 1930s cultural references coexist side by side in Hartman’s folk art world. Even included is a scene from the Oregon Trail. The whole surreal environment is surrounded by a concrete picket fence and gate that so much resembles an actual wooden fence that you’d swear it was the real thing, if it were not for the exposed steel rebar, which is visible where the cement has chipped away.

Although now somewhat deteriorated, the Harman Rock Garden still stands, its impressive displays adorned with flowery paintings. Since H.G.’s death in 1944, the property has been maintained by Ben Hartman, his youngest son. However, Ben would like to sell the artwork and have someone else take care of it. Though there are no organized tours, anyone looking to apply for the job of caretaker or just looking to look around is welcome to visit during daylight hours—no appointments are necessary!

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