Petersen Rock Garden
Petersen Rock Garden is the folk art vision of one man, and a tourist attraction that has survived far longer than its creator. It's still open every day, with a museum, a gift shop, even postcards. Visitors are invited to wander the grounds until sunset.
Born in Denmark, Rasmus Petersen (1883-1952) built his rock garden in the last 17 years of his life, in tribute to his adopted new country. He collected rocks, petrified wood, glass, and shells from around Redmond, and began building replica structures at the age of 52 -- when most people start to slow down. His creative Dementia Concretia eventually yielded a scaled-down Statue of Liberty, a U.S. Capitol building, and an impressive Independence Hall -- the first thing that visitors encounter when walking in from the parking lot. Monuments line landscaped paths, and three Tower Bridges cross ponds on Petersen's four acres of property.
Inside the main building and museum, a fluorescent light room provides the expected glowing mineral thrills. Central Oregon is rich in rocks, and Petersen clearly loved his chosen building material.
The Garden is still owned and run by Petersen's grandchildren, and in 2013 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
On our visit, we were especially struck by the squat Statue of Liberty, with its light bulb torch, atop a pedestal of rocks (it was the "Dreamers" chapter-opening photo in the first Roadside America book). A plaque in front of Liberty advises, we assume from the hand of the long-dead Petersen: "Enjoy Yourself. It Is Later Than You Think."