Mukwa Motel Vernacular Environment

The Mukwa Motel/Farmers Retirement Home is a vernacular art environment on Wisconsin Highway 54 west of New London. It’s on the northern edge of the Mukwa State Wildlife Area and was photographed before 1995. An artful bit of rural humor built by farmer John Kraske shortly before his retirement.

According to the Post-Crescent newspaper, he assembled the site in 1991, two years before he retired from farming. Kraske, who died at 96 in 2016, told the paper in 2001, “It’s just something some crazy farmer did who didn’t have anything better to do with his time.”

“Every year or so we add something to it,” he said at the time. “I generally make a tour of all the garbage cans in town and see what people have thrown out. You’d be amazed. I think half my house is furnished with stuff somebody threw out. Don’t tell my wife, though.”

Kraske said he originally planed to call it the Northport Motel after the neighboring town. “But I thought that wouldn’t be right, disparaging the name of Northport.”

He claimed to have run afoul of neighbors only once, over the poor condition of an American flag. And based on the paper’s coverage, the site seems to be viewed favorably.

Google street view shows the place still extant in 2016, although somewhat deteriorated.

Escape to Wisconsin

Grotto of the Redemption — Redemptive Greatness

Father Paul Dobberstein’s Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa, is on the way to nowhere, but the right way to go: It’s one of the most spectacular places in the world.

Dobberstein was a parish priest with a vision, and the decades he spent fulfilling that vision paid off. For that we should be grateful not only to Dobberstein, but to the parishioners who tolerated and supported his obsession, which in turn helped spark similarly over-the-top constructions all over the upper Midwest.

The grotto includes a number of mini-grottos and fountains as well as an avenue lined with the Stations of the Cross. Between the exotic materials, the designs and the overall layout of the place, there is plenty to see and be astounded by.

Several other Dobberstein creations are accessible, including The Crucifixion Group, Fay’s Fountain and the War Memorial in Old Rolfe.

Highlight views

The rest of the grotto

Visit the official Grotto of the Redemption site.

Fay’s Fountain — Vernacular in the Park

Another Iowa vernacular masterpiece built by Father Paul Dobberstein, creator of the Grotto of the Redemption. Dobberstein was commissioned to built this memorial, officially called the Liberty Fountain, in honor of Fay Hessian, a young girl who died from tuberculosis in 1912. The fountain was dedicated in 1918 and restored in 2011. It sits in a park in Humboldt, Iowa, with organic shapes and encrustations that make it unlike any city park fountain I’ve ever seen.

Back to the Grotto of the Redemption