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Located in Sparta in the state of Wisconsin, the Wegner Grotto has a fascinating story behind its construction. Paul & Matilda Wegner were German immigrants. They used to live in the state of Wisconsin for more than 40 odd years. Paul used to look after a garage and tirelessly worked for the railroad. They were professional farmers too, and lived happily with their five kids.
About the Wegner Grotto
Where did the idea for the Wegner Grotto come from?
Neither of the two were born artists, but their world changed when in 1929, they visited a homemade grotto known as Dickeyville Grotto. After seeing this, they felt inspired to build a sculpture garden that will become an inspiration and attract visitors from across the country. The couple returned to their farm and began building sculptures and structures that were basically made from cement and pieces of broken glass. Within just a couple of years, their home got surrounded by works of art.
Significance of the different structures in Wegner Grotto
The result of such continued hard work was the Wegner Grotto. It wholly followed the Dickeyville pattern i.e building something out of cement and then embedding it with thousand of shards of cracked glass and many chunks of crockery.
Their best-known creation is The Glass Church, which is a tiny chapel encrusted with shard mosaics of church spires. The front side of the building showcased the German religions, which were prevalent during the 1930s. Although it was not very large, the Glass Church was used for services, and the local historical society, which looks after the property, has confirmed the people can still get married inside it.
Family matters and patriotism deeply moved the husband and wife duo of Paul and Matilda. They managed to build a massive long ocean liner that was 12 ft long and made from beautiful seashells and telephone pole insulators. It was a tribute to the boat which they took to come down to the US in 1885. The big star was a memorial to all the mothers who lost their sons in World War I that included Matilda also. One will also come across a deer that had large eyeballs (made from marble) and a glass version of the famous and hugely popular 50th-anniversary cake of Paul & Matilda Wagner.
The Present-day Wegner Grotto scenario
Paul Wagner passed away in 1937, and his funeral was held in the Glass Church itself. His wife Matilda carried on for another five years until she breathed her last in 1942. The Wegner Grotto was purchased in the mid – 1980s, and it was spruced up by the Kohler Foundation. The structure was given back to the county by the foundation as a park.
Today the Wegner Grotto looks more beautiful than before, and it attracts a lot of visitors throughout the year. There are no admission charges, which is great news for everybody. The concrete entry arch with the word ‘HOME’ written on it now leads to an empty patch of grass.
Today there is no Wagner farmhouse, but, thankfully, the artwork that surrounded the farmhouse has managed to survive. There has been less human intervention here, which has made it easier for the foundation to look after Wegner Grotto well.
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