1104 Upton Ave, Toledo, OH (dismantled 1969)
In 1915, Doctor Cassius M. Hettinger received a series of three visions which instructed him to begin building shell-encrusted statues illustrating biblical scenes. In the first vision, he saw a house and garden made of shells. The vision troubled Doc Hettinger greatly and he realized that the only way to regain peace was to follow its directives. So he set off to Florida to search for the perfect sea shells as seen in the dream, but found none which met his specifications. Finally, giving up hope, he discovered his shells on the freshwater shores of Lake Erie just east of Toledo at Reno Beach.
Hauling barrels of sea shells home to his home in southwest Toledo, he set to work. In the second vision the specific design of the house was given. With the help of a hired carpenter he set to work to build it.
When Doc Hettinger was nearly finished with the house the third vision came to him, showing him glories of thousands of horses and birds bathed in light. A white horse and a great lion drew his attention as well, which inspired Hettinger to add a sculpture of the lion from his dream to his front yard.
An old postcard booklet shows a half-dozen life-sized figures covered with shells depicting biblical stories from Jacob's ladder to the Last Supper. The figures were placed outdoors behind Hettinger's house and at the rear of the lawn visible in the postcard image above. At the front of the well-tended lawn are a wishing well, a stag, and letters spelling out Hettinger's name. A 1927 newspaper article tells us that the doctor also enjoyed painting, and that the inside of his house was filled with his work, but sadly does not show any images of the interior.
Doc Hettinger passed away in 1955 and the Garden of Eden was dismantled in 1969.
References and Links to Doc Hettinger's Garden of Eden
presented by Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi