March 17th Update: Spotlight on the Wegner Grotto (Black River Falls Route)

A few weeks ago we highlighted the Dickeyville Grotto. This week we are taking a look at a great place to stop on the Black River Falls Route...the Wegner Grotto in Sparta, WI. Paul and Matilda Wegner were German immigrants. In 1929 they traveled downstate to visit the Dickeyville Grotto and came back with big ideas. Paul and Matilda returned to their farm and immediately began building sculptures and structures of cement and broken glass. Within a few years their home was surrounded by art.

The result is today called The Wegner Grotto. It followed the Dickeyville pattern of building something out of cement, then embedding it with thousand of shards of cracked glass and chunks of crockery.

One of their best-known creations is The Glass Church, a tiny chapel -- capacity 7 -- encrusted with shard mosaics of church spires from various Protestant denominations. The front of the building is a billboard for the three big German religions of 1930: Catholic, Lutheran, and Jewish. Despite its itty-bitty size The Glass Church was used for services, and if you call the local historical society that oversees the property you can still get married in it. In fact, when Paul died in 1937, his funeral was held in the Glass Church.

They also built a 12-foot-long ocean liner, the Bremen, out of seashells and telephone pole insulators, as a tribute to the boat that had carried them to America in 1885. A big star is a memorial to mothers who lost sons in World War I, as had Matilda Wegner. There's a deer with marble eyeballs (and supposedly a real skull beneath its glass-encrusted head), and a giant concrete and glass version of the Wegner's 50th anniversary wedding cake.

In the mid-1980s the Wegner Grotto was purchased and spruced up by the Kohler Foundation, which then gave it to the county as a park.

April 1st is right around the corner and that signals the start of the 2021 Driftless Challenge. We will be posting the 2021 challenge sites in the next week or so. Starting April 1st you can start submitting your photos for a chance to win a prize each month through October.

It's supposed to be a lovely weekend, so get out there with your routes and enjoy! Visit the Driftless Store for routes, maps and other great Driftless Road Adventures items. Ride safe and be well!

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