By CRISTINA JANNEY
On the map: Lucas, Kansas Distance from Hays: 65 miles Drive time: one hour
So for this week’s road trip, we are going to flash back a year to my first trip to Lucas and Luray last fall.
I am an art lover, and there is a lot of weird and wacky art in Lucas to love.
Lucas is only 16 miles north of Interstate 70 off the Wilson exit.
Lucas is probably most famous for the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden is on the National Register of Historic Places and was named a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art. I am neither an art critic nor enough of a student of history to make any educated comments about the Garden of Eden. It is just something you need to see and evaluate for yourself.
Garden of Eden
Samuel Perry Dinsmoor was the grand architect of the Garden of Eden. He was a retired schoolteacher, farmer and Civil War nurse. His art was influenced my the Populist movement as is evident in some of the sculptures in the garden, including “Crucifixion of Labor.”
Of course, as the name of the Dinsmoor’s art experiment indicates, the Garden of Eden also had biblical influences with appearances of the Devil and Adam and Eve, who were originally naked, but Dinsmoor later clothed them — to the relief of his neighbors.
Dinsmoor makes a comment on the predatory nature of both animal and human kind. In the garden, a fox chases a cat who pursues a bird who stalks a worm, which is eating a leaf. A Native American is aiming at the fox with a bow and behind a solider aims a rifle at the Native American. A woman reaches to stop the soldier from firing the rifle.
Dinsmoor also constructed a mausoleum for he and his wife. His remains can be viewed by visitors today in a glasstop concrete coffin that he constructed. I skipped that part of the tour.
He started constructing the 150 sculptures outside of his home in 1907 when he was 64. During the next 22 years, he would use 113 tons of concrete and tons of limestone to construct the Garden of Eden.
You can also tour the inside of the home, which is decorated as the Dinsmoor would have lived prior to his death in 1932.
The Garden of Eden is open 1 to 4 p.m. daily in March and April and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily May through October. November through February, tours are available from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays only. Admission is charged for tours.
The weirdness does not end there. Lucas is a hotbed of folk art.
Just east of the Garden of Eden is Miller’s Park. Roy and Clara Miller built miniature Lucas buildings from rocks and sea shells they collected while traveling in the 1930s through ’60s. They also made towers of slag glass and barite roses. The collection resided in Hays for a time before being moved back to Lucas in 2013.
Along the same vein as Garden of Eden and the Miller’s Park, the Grassroots Art Center, whose exhibit space was opened in 1999, was created to preserve the art of untrained artists in the Midwest. Grassroots has both permanent exhibits like Herman’s Drivers’ car and life-size motorcycle made of pop tabs as well as temporary exhibits.
You can see portraits made out of grapefruit rind by Betty Milliken or painted limestone sculptures created by auto mechanic, truck driver and traveling evangelist Inez Marshall. Ida Kingsbury spent the years after her husband’s death decorating her yard with anything she could repurpose, including teapots, two liter pop bottles and plastic animals.
“Button Masterpieces” by Charles Berendt from Denver is on temporary display through Sept. 25, and Dennis Clark’s “Imaginary City” will be on display through November.
See the Grassroots Arts Center website for more information on admission and hours.
The outdoor Post Rock Courtyard in the rear of the Grassroots Art Center exhibits a tribute to the limestone carvers of the area and also incorporates metal and glass for a dazzling display of color, texture and light.
A visit to Lucas would not be complete without visiting the restroom that was named the nation’s second best place to flush.
Bowl Plaza is in the 100 block of South Main Street. The public restroom is covered inside and out with a mosaics of tile, glass, dominoes and glass bottles. The local effort to create the fancy porcelain palace was led by Mri-Pilar and Eric Abraham.
Mri-Pilar also created 15 colorful fork sculptures in the art park next to the Bowl Plaza.
Brant’s Meat Market is back in Lucas after a short hiatus. Brant’s, which has been in business since 1922, specializes in homemade bologna and sausages and was named one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce.
The Facebook post announcing the store’s closing earlier this year reached over 77,000 people, and the store was inundated with telephone calls and messages from customers hoping to get one last order in before they sold out.
Adam and Ashley Comeau of Plainville stepped in to help save the Lucas staple.
Other notable stops in Lucas are the Florence Debbie Sculpture Garden, 126 Fairview. Debbie created concrete and rock sculptures based on famous landmarks, such as Mount Rushmore. The World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World Largest Things is the brain child of Erika Nelson. She has a gallery of these oddities in her new downtown storefront at 214 S. Main St. The attraction is open by chance or by appointment.
Some eclectic items to create your own folk art may be found at Aunt Gertie’s Art and Antiques, 304 E. Second. Check their Facebook page for current hours and to see new goodies for sale.
If you’re hungry, you can grab some eats at the K-18 Cafe, 5945 Kansas Highway 18 or Backstreet Bakery at 208 S. Main St. One look at their Facebook page and I was ready to drive to Lucas for a piece of fresh peach pie.
For a side trip, keep going north on K-18, and you will come to the little town of Luray. At the K-18 rest area across from Main sits a log cabin built by Civil War veteran Jonathan Wesley Van Scoyoc.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, Luray will host Craftique. Every possible spare space in the small community is opened for crafters. Last fall, I had a pleasant stroll downtown, popping in and out of buildings to pick up some fall decorations and get a head start on Christmas shopping.
Other links to check out while you are planning your trip:
Corrected at 7:07 p.m. Sept. 18 for address of World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World Largest Things.