Just 15 short minutes off of Kansas I-70 takes you to the town of Lucas, known as the Grassroots Capital of Kansas. Like stepping into a weird sci-fi movie, you’ll find yourself amid attractions unlike any you’ve ever seen. Life-size depictions of Biblical and political scenes surround an 11-room log-cabin home turned museum and galleries of grassroots artwork line the town’s Main Street. While a sign states “free Wifi,” you’ll experience nothing like that in Lucas, Kansas, and The Garden of Eden.
Garden of Eden: An Attraction You Won’t Forget
Lucas is home to 400 people. Perhaps the most well-known resident was Samuel P. Dinsmoor, a Civil War Veteran and creator/owner of the Garden of Eden, the town’s biggest attraction. Dinsmoor built the “works of art” that dotted his property and captured, in his eyes, what he felt to be the demise of society (Populist movement).
Dinsmoor’s project took 22 years to be fulfilled (started 1907), using 113 tons of cement and area post rock limestone. Dinsmoor (who passed in 1932) is even entombed in the back of his property in a pyramid looking log mausoleum structure. He rests inside a handmade glass-topped concrete coffin.
My friend, Sara (of Travel with Sara), and I encountered Garden of Eden on a 16-day road trip across Kansas I-70. We were equally thrilled to have found such a unique attraction, as we were a bit creeped out by the sites. Dinsmoor’s utopia consists of more than 200 sculptures, including Adam and Eve, an angel, devil, Cain and Abel, and serpents. The most startling scene to me was a crucified Jesus surrounded by a doctor, lawyer, preacher, and banker, who supposedly put him there.
Sara and I did get to see Mr. Dinsmoor’s body entombed in the backyard. Photos are not allowed, though I’m sure I would not have wanted one. You can see his body, too, with a guided tour of the property. Garden of Eden is open daily and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It sees nearly 10,000 visitors each year. Tickets are $8 each for ages 12 and over.
Grassroots Art Center
Two other things you will find in Lucas, Kansas are the Grassroots Art Center and Bowl Plaza. The art center has exhibits and gallery contributions from 25 self-taught artists from the Midwest. Some are incredibly well-thought and complicated, while others are simple and created to make you laugh or scratch your head in confusion. Permanent galleries include limestone carvings, concrete rock gardens, barbed wire art, wire sculptures, mechanical wood carvings, and bottle creations. Many of the artworks are made from unconventional or recycled materials.
Your paid admission into the Grassroots Art Center lets you see Mri- Pilar’s Garden of Isis. Seven rooms of a nearby house display the jaw-dropping creations the artist designed with recycled materials in dedication to the deity. You’ll find computer motherboards, buttons, fashion dolls, toys, games, mosaics, and much more in this design of this one-of-a-kind attraction.
Bowl Plaza is an award-winning public toilet. Seriously, it was voted the 2018 International Toilet Tourism Award for the quirkiest entry. This rest area is nothing like you’ve ever seen. The bathrooms are fashioned in mosaics made from trinkets, treasures, trash, and more things of that nature. The building is shaped like a toilet and the entrance is the raised toilet seat lid.
People love it, myself included, though the men’s room was far more exciting than the womens. The picturesque toilets see 15,000 guests a year, so it is well received for those seeking off-the-beaten path eccentricities.
Other Interesting Sights Around Town
Make sure to visit Miller Park, an attraction made of miniature buildings of rocks, minerals, and shells gathered from the family’s 50 road trips to Colorado. It took 32 years of collecting for them to build it to completion. Another quirky rock attraction is Florence Deebie’s Rock Garden scenes depicting postal scenes across America. The structures are derived from concrete, native rocks, and stones.
My favorite find in Lucas was Brant’s Market, serving homemade, fresh specialty meats since 1922. The recipes have been passed down for generations and the taste is amazing. Sara and I took some jalapeño cheese brats and smoked sausages to snack on for our road trip, and craft sodas to wash it down with.
Lucas, Kansas is a stop you won’t want to miss, and a great reason to hop off the interestate from your road trip for a few minutes.
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