Artistic Creations From Concrete Park in Wisconsin

8/22/2009 02:00:00 PM ·

In 1936, Fred Smith and John and Albert Raskie built the Rock Garden Tavern on Route 13 just outside of Phillips, Wisconsin. During the construction of the Tavern, Fred grew interested in sculpting.

In 1949, Fred Smith, a retired lumberjack and Tavern owner, came up with the idea to create a park with living concrete sculptures portraying people that he knew and historical figures.

Over a period of 15 years, Fred Smith artistically constructed over 220 pieces depicting life and history.

As he added to his collection over the years, more and more significant figures started to come alive like Paul Bunyan, Abe Lincoln, Sacajawea, the Statue of Liberty, a depiction of the flag raising at Iwo Jimo, and so many more.

The most interesting characteristics on the sculptures are the surface pieces. To give the sculpture some depth, Fred added beer bottles, gadgets, colored glass and porcelain, light bulbs, and many other scrap pieces he thought would add to the complexity of the piece.

I believe the monument depicting the flag raising at Iwo Jima was one of the most significant pieces that Fred ever completed.

Smith is quoted as saying, "Nobody knows why I made them, not even me. This work just comes to me naturally."

Unfortunately, Fred suffered a stroke in 1964 and he was unable to continue his work on the park. He died on February 21, 1976.

After Fred's death, a storm rolled in that destroyed most of his life's work.

In the late 70's, the site was acquired by the Kohler Foundation of Wisconsin, who took on the undying task of refurbishing the sculptures to their former glory.

When the project was completed, the concrete park was donated to Price County, and is now a county park.

Admission is free, but donations are always welcome to keep this living sculpture park alive.

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