S. P. Dinsmoor

Samuel Perry Dinsmoor was born on March 8, 1843, in Ohio. He served in the Civil War as a nurse in the Union Army. After the war, Dinsmoor returned to Ohio and soon joined the Masonic Lodge. Joining this organization was a significant development in his philosophical outlook on life. He had grown up in a very religious home, but, like many who witnessed the inexplicable slaughter of the Civil War, began searching for other ways to understand humankind.

These were the days when the free-thought movement and a multitude of secret societies proliferated throughout the United States. Lectures on free-thought and scientific theory often were held in Masonic halls. Ohio was considered a "hotbed" of free-thought activity. Free-thought was the end point in the evolution of deism, a philosophical movement that developed in Europe in the eighteenth century. Deism gained a strong foothold on North American thought from about 1790 to 1840. Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Ethan Allen, among others, were adherents of its tenets. Freethinkers, although widely divergent in individual group focus, believed that any issue in life should be dealt with in a rational manner without resorting to emotional responses or to the dictates of tradition or religion.

Late in 1866, Dinsmoor moved to Illinois, where he taught school. In 1870, he married Frances Barlow Journey, a widow with two children. Frances and S.P. had five more children. In 1888, the Dinsmoor family moved to Lucas, Kansas, area and began to farm southeast of town.

Cabin Home

When Dinsmoor retired from farming and moved to town, he build a house, the Cabin Home, intended to be both a residence and a source of income. For the exterior, he chose postrock limestone, the fine-quality building stone used in many commercial buildings, houses, barns, and fence posts in the area. His construction technique was unique, however. He had the stone quarried in long narrow lengths, some up to twenty feet long. The stone was then laid up with dovetailed corners in the manner of a log cabin. He designed the main floor with a mind to entertaining visitors, incorporating 3,000 feet of oak, redwood, and walnut to elaborate moldings and baseboards, To add to the unique look, he built no two windows or doors the same size.

Dinsmoor , the artist and social commentator, spent the years between 1907 and 1928 creating the Cabin Home and the Garden of Eden. He located his sculptural environment in a residential area, within walking distance of Main Street businesses and visible from the principal railroad track. It appears that Dinsmoor selected the location with the public in mind. The environment was a popular attraction; income from visitors' admission fees provided a degree of financial security for Dinsmoor and his family. He welcomed visitors and led tours of the site while the work was in progress.

Excerpted from "The Garden of Eden" by John Hachmeister, an essay included in the book Backyard Visionaries: Grassroots Art in the Midwest, edited by Barbara Brackman & Cathy Dwigans

Garden of Eden

from S.P.'s self-published "Pictorial History of the Cabin Home in Garden of Eden, Lucas Kansas"

"This is my sign - GARDEN OF EDEN - I could hear so many, as they go by, sing out, "What is this?" so I put this sign up. Now they can read it, stop or go on, just as they please."

"The porches, side walks, fence, strawberry and flower beds, fish pool, grape-arbor three U. S. flage, adam and Eve, the devil, coffin, jug, visitors' dining hall, labor crucified, two bird and animal cages, and wash house are all made with cement.

Up to this date, July 1, 1927, over 113 tons , or 2,273 sacks of cement has been used. The Garden of Eden is on the west; the front, or north represents present day civilization. There are fifteen cement trees from 30 to 40 feet tall. On trees, mausoleum, cages and dining hall are forty-eight electric lights.

The most unique home, for living or dead, on earth.

Call and see it."

"The dog is after the fox, fox after the bird, bird has its mouth open after a little worm eating a leaf. This shows how one animal is after another down to the leaf.

Now this side is modern civilization as I see it. If it is not right I am to blame, but if the Garden of Eden is not right Moses is to blame. He wrote it up and I built it."