Albert Lea, Minnesota
Itasca & Bluegrass Roads, Albert Lea, MN (by appointment only)
This elaborate rock garden, sometimes known as the Itasca Rock Garden after the township of Itasca where it is located, was started by John Christensen in 1925. At the one end of the garden, the battlements of a castle-like structure dated 1927 is built into an artificial hill and conceals a tool shed. Below this tower, to the north, he constructed several pools circled by paths and bridges. Christensen and his wife often collected rocks while travelling, bringing back geodes and unique specimens to add to the walls of the garden.
On the higher ground at the opposite end of the pools he added a miniature hotel-like castle of rock and concrete to overlook the picturesqe scene.
The postcard above calls this rock garden a "grotto" but there doesn't seem to be any religious overtone to the garden, as the term generally suggests in the Midwest. It is an extensive garden, with lily ponds, numerous bridges, arches, rock walls and miniatures. The last constructions in the garden were built in 1938, and Christensen passed away in 1939. Fortunately, the rock garden was maintained and kept open to the public by his widow and the following owners of the property. The postcard of the miniature castle above was printed in 1952, after the property was sold, showing the garden was still thriving as a tourist attraction.
The Christensen Rock Garden is located 2 miles northwest of Albert Lea, MN. The garden is privately owned and now closed to the public, but it still exists, a hidden treasure in the small city of Albert Lea.
References and Links to the Christiansen Rock Garden
presented by Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi