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Hollandale, Wisconsin

Grandview

One Austrian's singular yard is now preserved as a folk art garden of concrete wonders. 

Nick Engelbert had already lived in his Wisconsin residence for around a decade before he created his first concrete statue, but by the time he moved away, his home had become a veritable folk art museum surrounded by hand-crafted sculptures, totems, and paintings that would come to be known as Grandview. 

After immigrating to America from Austria as a young man, Engelbert met his wife and settled into his Wisconsin home in 1922. Once his children had grown, Engelbert found himself with a severe case of idle hands and after spraining his ankle in the 1930’s he put them to use creating his first cement statue. With this idle act of creation, Engelbert had apparently discovered a new passion and with no formal artistic training he began creating sculpture after sculpture out of concrete decorated using myriad objects ranging from stones to seashells to shards of glass, ceramic, and porcelain.

By the 1950’s Engelbert’s yard was filled with over 40 works of cement whimsy. Many of the pieces are figures such as a dancing woman surrounded by mirthful gnomes and a pair of men in Austrian formal dress. Other of the works are more abstract forms or subjects like little miniature buildings or a glistening owl figure. As he aged Engelbert found it harder and harder to work with concrete and moved on to creating painted works which he decorated his home with. 

Engelbert moved away from Grandview in 1960, passing away two years later, but the site is still preserved today by a foundation devoted to the effort. The house is now a museum to Engelbert’s works and front lawn is still covered with the joyous creations of a man who simply had a lot of time on his hands.