Fred Smith was born in 1886 and died in 1976. In between, he was a lumberjack, owner of the Rock Garden Tavern and creator of the Wisconsin Concrete Park. He began sculpting with concrete and glass when he was 63 and worked on the park for the next 15 years until he had a stroke. Fred never learned how to read or write. His descriptions of his pieces were narrated to a typist. Here’s Fred
We made a 10-mile side trip to Phillips, Wisconsin to see the park and spent about half an hour wandering about. I’m not certain how I feel about Fred’s labor of love. It’s not good. I’m not even sure it’s art. But it is compelling.
Here’s Fred’s first work. It’s known simply as “Barbecue.” Fred built it to celebrate the World Series of 1948 in which the Cleveland Indians defeated the Boston Braves.
Here’s his last work, called “Budweiser Clydesdale Team.” It took Fred six months to create it, and shortly after he finished he had a stroke. He spent the last 12 years of his life in a nursing home. You can click on the photo to get a better look at the high-heeled shoes on the horses.
Somebody bet Fred that he couldn’t create a statue of “Paul Bunyan standing on a marble.” But he didn’t specify how large the marble could be, so Fred built this piece and won the bet. He called the marble a globe — or rather “glob.”
Fred’s description of this piece and two others nearby reads like this:
THE GLOBE OF PAUL BUNYAN
Paul Bunyan shows here the first power that came in for logging and farming is called oxen. Mr. Knox shows here how oxen are worked and tells how oxen are hooked up. Only a heavy chain hooked from the go-devil onto the link in the yoke. It shows how to lead them when they are at work. It shows here also a gang of his sawyers, Barry Swanson and Gust Johnson, the two big lumberjacks with an eight foot saw. It shows some of his logging tools and the two large wolf hounds he hunted with and also one of his bear traps. Paul Bunyan, the greatest logger in the state of Wisconsin and his three oldest lumberjacks. And I thank you.
This one is called Man and Woman on a Rock.
I think this one was my favorite. It’s called the Lincoln-Todd Monument. Underneath the title, it says, “second monument of its kind in the U.S.A.”
If you haven’t had enough of Fred, you can hold your cursor over the photos to get details.