Wandering Wisconsin


Carl Peterson (1869–1969), a Swedish immigrant, transformed his garden into a wonderful fantasy land of animals, fountains, and birdbaths, creating an entire stone-embellished kingdom in his St. James, Minnesota, yard during the first half of the twentieth century. With experience as a blacksmith, cabinetmaker, and railroad worker, Peterson made use of his life skills to fastidiously compose forms distinguished by a serene elegance and balanced symmetry.

Peterson modeled his garden after Swedish architectural styles and formal gardens, designing towers, light fixtures, and flagpoles topped with egg-like spheres. Using concrete and pebbles, he constructed a romantic miniature village, castles, and elaborate villas. Amidst these structures he added an array of animals including a lion, tiger, penguin, alligator, deer, bears, eagles, and songbirds.

While his original, wonderful art environment no longer survives intact, there are currently over 50 pieces from his art environment in the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s collection—fifteen of which are large-scale works installed outdoors in the Arts Center’s garden. 

Located at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center
608 New York Ave.
Sheboygan, WI 53081
(920) 458-6144
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