Drive through any small town in America, and there’s more often than not a quirky roadside attraction that locals pass by without a glance. Even the travelers they’re meant to attract often overlook these small wonders. But there are some attractions that are worth stopping for. In tiny Arco, Minnesota – a town of just 75 people – a stone replica of the Statue of Liberty stands as a beacon for travelers looking for something a bit different. Here’s the story:
In the early 1930s, a man named H.P. Pederson gave up farming to take up a new hobby.
His hobby? Making things out of rocks. First he'd create a wire frame for his creation, and then he'd cover it with cement. The final step was to cover it with stones H.P. and his wife collected in nearby areas.
H.P.'s most famous creation was probably the Texaco gas station he bought in 1936. After he covered it with rocks, the station became a tourist attraction that drew thousands of people annually. An old guest book recorded 4,000 visitors in 1949. Today, the gas station is no more, but you can still see the old facade. It is now a private home on West Laurel Street in Arco.
After the Texaco was complete, H.P. moved on to other works.
He created a small sculpture garden in the yard of the gas station, adding many pieces to it over the years. In time, it held more than 30 pieces. They included a Dutch windmill, a lighthouse, and many more sculptures.
After H.P. died in the late 1940s, the rock garden was dismantled.
Most of the pieces are gone, but some have been relocated and are still accessible today. A large stone ram called Hugo is one such sculpture. It can be found at Anderson Park & Campground along Stay Lake in Arco.
The sculptures are free to visit at the campground.
Aside from Hugo, the bell - perhaps a replica of the Liberty Bell - is an impressive feat. Like the other sculptures, it's made entirely of wire, concrete, and stone.
But the most impressive sculpture still standing? Definitely the Statue of Liberty.
At 7 feet tall, it's a far cry from the 305-foot-tall Statue of Liberty in New York. But the Arco Lady Liberty does hold a certain charm. It was originally wired for electricity, so the torch lit up when it was plugged in. The Statue of Liberty may not draw the thousands of yearly visitors that it did in its heyday, but it's still worthy of a stop. You'll get to see one of Minnesota's tiniest towns and take in a little bit of its history.