RMSI Weihnachtsfest Marquee Dec 2021

Restoration Begins on Historic Sculpture Garden in Lucas

Erika Nelson helping with Deeble restoration.
Erika Nelson helping with Deeble restoration.

Florence Deeble built a backyard sculpture garden in Lucas beginning around 1930 and continuing to the late 1980s.

Thousands have visited her postcard views of the US recreated in concrete and rock. Now, her Mount Rushmore, Estes Park, Grand Tetons and many other sculptures are undergoing a restoration funded by the Grassroots Art Center and the Kansas Historical Society.

Lucas artists Erika Nelson and Matthew Farley are cleaning, pulling weeds, and picking up stone and other rubble in order to stabilize the sculptures and preserve them for more generations of visitors. Nelson and Farley began outdoor work in September and will continue through the winter in indoor work spaces to conserve and restore individual pieces.

The site was awarded a National Register of Historic Places status in 2017. That made the rock garden eligible for competitive Heritage Trust Fund grants administered by the state historical society.

"Florence is one in a continuing timeline of creativity in Lucas," Nelson said. She noted the Deeble rock garden is one of only two self-made environments still standing in their original spots in town, joining S.P. Dinsmoor's internationally known Garden of Eden, completed in the late 1920s, a little over a block away.

Nelson said that the process is slow and tedious – gathering and documenting broken stone, checking tree roots for encroachment into the concrete bases, cleaning organic matter from the pieces, repairing and color matching. Careful work has revealed that many more original surfaces are intact than previously thought.

Farley has created special tools to trench in a narrow area between the sculpture line and property line, so that Deeble's plantings can remain in place without damaging the works of art.

For a careful peek at the restoration work, visit the Grassroots Art Center at 213 South Main Street in Lucas for a guided tour. The Art Center is open Thursday through Saturday from 1 to 4 PM November through March with extended days and hours in the spring and summer when the restoration is slated to be complete.

To follow the restoration, check out Nelson's Daily Deeble updates and photographs on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/worldslargestthings.

(Information and photos courtesy Grassroots Art Center.)

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Matthew Farley Deeble Restoration
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Deeble Rocks