Mollie Jenson

The Fireplace

Old Mission Light

In 1940 or 1941 Mollie Jenson began building an outdoor fireplace from some stones from a ruined barn. The project may have started as a simple outdoor grill or barbecue patio, but Jenson kept building and extending the structure beyond the hearth (hidden behind the central table in the photo above) to create a structure more than 30 feet wide, with decorative mantel shelves and miniature castle turrets. Every inch of the concrete form was embedded with rocks or broken glass or pottery mosaics. The photo below shows the structure before the roof was completed. Mollie Jenson signed her name and the date proudly above embedded stained glass windows on either side.


photo courtesy Richard Moldenhauer

In 1942 she added two glass-encrusted pillars supporting a wooden roof to create a sheltered space in front. She decorated the shelves with taxidermy mounts and other small pieces of art. Lights inside the little castle turrets and strung across the scallooped eaves created a charming evening hangout space for family or guests.

Old Mission Light

The rear side of The Fireplace was a more rough organic hill-like form, similar to the massing of the rear of the Dickeyville Grotto. Rather than evoking the rugged miniature mountains or cave textures of the grotto, Jenson's fireplace is covered with colorful pictures and designs, like a giant quilt laid over the mound.

Like the Windmill, the mosaics of the Fireplace are colorful images of animals, geometric shapes and flowers. Here the designs meld together in a free-form collage of imagery and blocks of colored glass and crockery.


A flower created from oyster shells and blue ceramic fragments shows the wide variety of materials in the mosaic. Jenson collected many of the brighly-colored broken pieces for free from the Red Wing pottery factory. Brown bleach bottles came from nearby laundries and hospitals. Highway patrolmen contributed bottles picked up along the roadside. Mollie broke the bottles in a washtub and sometimes experimented with melting shards of different colors together.

photos courtesy Richard Moldenhauer

Back Home Next