John Christensen's Itasca Rock Garden
Kohler Foundation learned of the existence of the Itasca Rock Garden in Albert Lea, MN in Fall of 2019. John Christensen built the 14,000 square foot rock garden filled with castles, ponds, bridges, and grottos over the span of a decade or so beginning in 1925. From 1954 to 1985 it was owned and cared for by the Johnson family, and it was through descendants of the Johnsons that we learned of the site. During this period of time the Johnson family owned the property, the site hosted weddings, graduations, parties, and was often the site of family gatherings and photo shoots. The site fell into disrepair during the next phase of ownership, ultimately going into foreclosure.
The garden is currently overgrown but the "bones" of the rock garden are still there, and the beauty is obvious under the foliage. The pieces are large scale, beautifully crafted, and worthy of preservation. The home is in serious disrepair, but contains amazing artwork in the basement, in fact, one of the more important pieces is built into the basement. The house, as the rock garden, is quite sound from a structural perspective.
The restoration of the home and conservation of the rock garden will take place over a two year period. International Artifacts will over see the conservation of the artwork and a local contractor is working on the home. Once complete, the site and home will be gifted to the Freeborn Historical Society in Albert Lea, MN in 2021.