In a fairly sleepy neighborhood on the outskirts of Springfield, Ohio, sits the Hartman house.
The house isn’t really of interest here, though it seems to be a perfectly cozy little house…it’s what’s in the backyard that makes this a special location. The whole thing starts off fairly unassuming. There’s a pedestal bird bath built out of rocks…with fake birds.
A few small rock houses.
Things start to get more impressive with a long rock fence, with several openings filled with religious statues.
You walk under a vine trellis, and then you get hit with the real reason why this is a must see tourist attraction.
Ben Hartman worked at the nearby Springfield Machine Tool Company as a molder. After nearly 20 years at that job, during the Great Depression, he got laid off. As a way to kill some time, he began building a fishing pond out of rocks. Once he finished that, he just kept going…building general art pieces, historical buildings, and the fort-like behemoth that stretches the entire back wall of the property. Nearly 7 years later, he want back to his job, and construction on the garden all but stopped. Hartman died 5 years later.
After Hartman’s death, his widow Mary took care of the garden, led tours, and even added some things herself. She kept his project going for 53 years before her passing in 1997. After Mary’s death, the garden began to fall into disrepair. Thankfully, in 2008 the Kohler Foundation (a foundation that specializes in saving folk art) stepped forward and took over the upkeep of the garden. Today, a local not-for-profit now keeps the garden fit…in fact, the day we were there, we ran into some of the caretakers.
Let’s take a closer look at just a few pieces of interest.
There are definitely major themes at play. A lot of Patriotism, a ton of Religion, and a fair dose of history are on full display in this garden. You can certainly see the love put into this…especially love for his wife Mary, as her name shows up in several places
The garden is free to visit any day of the week, any time between dawn and dusk. If you’re ever in Springfield, I strongly recommend a stop at this unique art installation. It’s not a big place, but there are so many little details that you can easily spend a good 30-45 minutes exploring it.
If you’d like to learn more about the rock garden, please visit the website:
If you’d like to see more pictures, please visit my flickr album: