If you ever travel State Route 93 between Oak Hill and Ironton, Ohio, you’ll pass by this old gem. After all these years, I finally pulled over to snap a photo one day last fall. It isn’t fancy but it looks like a classic rural carry out and a slice of Americana. The Coke and Pepsi advertising pieces are eye catching and in great shape.
Saturday’s adventures took me to a place that has been on my to do list for most of my adult life. Seems like I read an article about it in Victoria Magazine when I was a teenager but somehow never found my way there. It’s called Hartman Rock Garden and, while small, it’s one of the most extraordinary folk art sites you’ll find in Ohio.
It all began when Springfield resident Harry George “Ben” Hartman was laid off from his job in 1932. He was a molder at the Springfield Machine Tool Company foundry. The Great Depression was tightening its grip on the country, work was hard to find, and he was not impressed with all his newfound free time. So what’s a guy to do? He set to work building a cement fishing pond in his back yard. He enjoyed that so much he began building all sorts of miniature buildings and characters throughout his back yard.
There’s a fourteen foot tall cathedral and a large castle as well. I liked the miniature Mount Vernon, the tiny sheep and the village of homes.
He left words of encouragement in the stone including the phrases “let us smile” and “seek the good life” for visitors to enjoy these many years later.
Hartman created a truly unique stone garden using hundreds of thousands of stones before his death in 1944. His wife Mary took on the role of maintaining his work, planting flowers and keeping it open to visitors until her death in 1997. While we call it a rock garden, Mary referred to it as a “garden of love.”
After her passing, the garden fell into a state of disrepair and was facing a bulldozer. That’s when the Kohler Foundation stepped in to buy the property and restore the garden. The Kohler company is know for faucets but the foundation is known for preserving bits of Americana across the country. Today, the garden is run by a local nonprofit organization and a small army of volunteers who are keeping it going.
The garden is free to explore but they happily accept donations. It’s open dawn to dusk and, as Mary used to say “Visitors are welcome if they know how to behave. This is my home.” So they do have a few rules including no smoking, don’t touch the rock structures, and children must be accompanied by an adult.
This is a great little side trip if you’re in the Springfield area. Just remember that this is folk art and it is quite old so don’t go looking for perfection. While there were a few of us oohing and aahing over things, there was some guy complaining that he expected to to be nicer. Don’t be that guy, please.
Get the address and other details over at their website.
Want to see more pictures? Hop over to Make the Journey Fun on Facebook to see more photos from Hartman Rock Garden.
There’s nothing better than an American flag on a great old barn. This particular barn is located on the National Road in Ohio, not far from Route 37 where you turn to go south to Lancaster.
I had surrendered my search for a bridge that a stranger had told me about (yes, I take adventure tips from strangers) and was pretty excited to see this. It was as pretty as a picture in my estimation.
Sometimes the road we call life doesn’t produce exactly what we’re seeking. If we’re lucky, it gives us something better.
Go for a drive, fellow road warriors and see what’s out there. Most of all, enjoy this day.
Everyone recognizes Henry Ford as an industrialist and pioneer in mass production who changed the way Americans travel.
In case you don’t know, his philosophies about production efficiencies extended to many areas of his business and are still used today. He also understood that a happy employee is a more productive employee and one less likely to leave. So Ford introduced the unheard of $5 a day wage, providing his employees a comfortable living and making it possible for them to afford to buy the cars they were building. It was a smart move because reducing turnover, cuts costs and improves efficiency.
What many people don’t know is this that Ford also was fascinated by science, technology and Americana. So in the twenties, he began collecting things for what would eventually become the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.
He plucked up important structures and items with historic value from around the country and began bringing them to Dearborn, Michigan.
This place has grown and is modernized for the 21st century visitor but remains true to Henry Ford’s vision.
I had been before but was feeling a real draw to go back for some reason. I spent most of a full day wandering around the museum, taking pictures, reading signs and admiring the collection so vast that it’s hard to see everything with one pass.
Anyone who knows me well won’t be surprised that I spent the vast majority of my day lingering over the cars and planes. If it has an open cockpit or tail fins, I’m probably going to be a fan.
Here are a few pictures for your viewing enjoyment.
Any vehicle with interesting lines and a cool color is A-ok in my book!
Did you know that Ford made an airplane? They also have one at the Model T Museum in Richmond, Indiana.
It’s a train snow plow! How cool is this?
This little car was made by Crosley, the same people who gave us the Crosley Radio. We’ll talk a little more about them another day. And yes, it’s as tiny as it looks!
Combining my excitement for aviation and interest in reporting!
Check back. I have a couple of specific stories to tell you and we’ll go to some other areas of the museum!
This porch. I just want to sit down in one of those chairs with a lemonade and plate of cookies. The blue is calming. The chairs are welcoming. The thought of a morning spent here with no place to be is priceless.