Picture an old time hitched-horse team and driver, but in this instance the horses are a donkey and elephant and the driver is Uncle Sam. “Can anybody do a day’s work with a team like that?” ponders poor Sam, obviously in a quandary. Of course, most of us would shake our heads knowingly given the way democracy has been working lately.
Years ago, from the 1930s though the 1950s,, an immigrant Hollandale dairy farmer named Nick Engelbert created a fantasy land of statues in his yard and embellished his house with found objects stuck in concrete. Known as Grandview, the place still exists and is a sanctuary of sorts, open to the public free of charge. Today many call places like this art environments. You’re surrounded.
There isn’t much left of the Uncle Sam statues. By the early 1990s when restoration began Uncle Sam and the donkey were long gone. Only a lonely elephant remains.
But the mildly veiled message Engelbert intended when he created the tableau is probably more poignant today than when it was built.
Efforts are underway to restore the milkman’s masterpiece. Using photo documentation, restoration experts will recreate Sam and the donkey and spiff-up the elephant, too, all part of a grand plan to fully restore the Grandview site.
If you’re from Wisconsin then you probably understand the bigger picture. Wisconsin people are famous for creating roadside attractions like Grandview, and they dot the state map like freckles. Many were created years ago and today remain as echoes of the voices of Wisconsinites long past.
You can stop by Grandview any time, the grounds are open to the public and the museum is often open on weekends. There’s never an admission fee. You’ll find the place just west of Hollandale on State Highway 39 in southwest Wisconsin.
If you’re interested in Uncle Sam – visit Grandview’s website at and look for the Uncle Sam link. Of course, restoration is an expensive proposition so the non-profit that manages the place appreciates donations to the project.
You can learn about many other similar sites around the state through Wandering Wisconsin.