First published: Summer 2024
Almost a century after the first stone was laid, a fairytale environment in Minnesota has been restored and is enchanting its caretakers and visitors once again


During his 40 years as a Minnesota farmer, John Christensen had meticulously removed from the soil countless rocks and boulders formed by the glaciers that had covered the land millions of years ago. It was only after he retired that he was struck by their potential for creating something beautiful. In 1925, he began a basement excavation for a vegetable cellar under the house that he and his wife Sophie lived in, near the small town of Albert Lea, Minnesota. That project sparked the whole confection of structures that soon sprawled over the land next to their home, all made with careful attention to the subtle differences in colour of the rocks and stones that he had excavated years earlier.


Christensen built planters in the garden which Sophie filled with flowers, courtesy: Kohler Foundation


The environment eventually included 14,000 square feet of construction, with a large castle – crowned with turrets and the year “1925” inscribed in stones – as its presiding feature. Ponds full of fish and lily pads were navigated by bridges and encircled by paths with steps and archways, while grottos, seating areas, waterfalls, even a tiny castle bird house, added enchanting detail. Nurturing the flowerbeds and lush terraces, Sophie helped make the site flourish like a storybook garden.


Christensen inset the walls and turrets of his castle with rocks of meticulously chosen sizes and hues; courtesy: Kohler Foundation




This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #119.

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