One of the more striking works at the Paul and Matilda Wegner Grotto is a glass and concrete re-creation of the couples' fiftieth wedding anniversary cake. Like that cake, this rustic sculpture garden celebrates a lifetime together of shared sensibilities and passions.
The Wegners emigrated together from Germany in the 1880's. After railroad work in La Crosse and farming near the village of Cataract, Paul became a car dealer in Bangor in 1916. Upon retirement in 1927, the couple returned each summer to the Cataract farm and began turning the grounds into a sculpted environment of concrete, glass shards, and entact china and porcelain pieces.
Neither of the Wegners had any artistic training, but they were inspired by the Dickeyville Grotto on the grounds of Holy Ghost Parish, also created by a German immigrant.
The Wegner site likewise features a shrine, but not to the Virgin. The Wegners clearly wanted their place of devotion to have more universal appeal, not be the expression of one particular religion. The names of several denominations are incorporated in the shrine's design.
The site became known locally as the "Glass Church" after the shrine. And it was there that Paul Wegner's funeral was held in 1937. Maltilda kept up the garden until her death in 1942. The farm remained in the family until 1986 when it purchased by the Kohler Foundation restored and given to Monroe County to be a public park.
And that's where you can find it today, along Highway 27 south of Cataract, or take a look with our Quicktime panoramic tour.