“Good morning, sir, do you live here?”
“Sure do. Can I help you?”
“Would you mind if I took a few photos and a possible Instagram reel, I might post it to TikTok and YouTube shorts as well, as it seems that’s where the content in today’s society is heading.”
“Yeah, I don’t mind. Just watch out for holes and rocks. Also, tag me on Instagram if you don’t mind.”
“Thank you, sir. Your name was?”
“Thanks, JP. I’m Adam. Really appreciate it.”
“Yep. Now can I get back to sanding and cutting this cabinet I’m building.”
“Yes, sir.” I say politealy as I slowly fall back into a hole, twist my ankle then smack my head onto a rock.
Only about 75% of that is true. I didn’t fall and hurt myself, but a nice gentleman who is named JP was extremely friendly to my mother and me on a gorgeous Thursday morning. JP now owns the property that once was a dairy farm owned by a man named William Notzke, and his wife Ethel, kindly let me tour what is left of William’s most incredible creation, the Jubilee Rock Garden, situated right off the highway between two small towns in Peoria County, Illinois.
William Notzke, born in 1902 in Jubilee Township, was a farmer, a tinkerer, and as stubborn as they come. He didn’t much care for the government’s rules and regulations, but he did want to make the people who came to purchase milk from his dairy farm happy.
What started in the 1930s as an Art Deco style farm building on 15 acres of land remains only the rock garden, archway, and a few flower beds near the house, completed over a few decades to the displeasure of his wife, Ethel. Even though she didn’t care much for William’s creations, he would often create random machines including his own ice cream maker, this didn’t stop William from creating a beautiful art environment that included as a final touch, built in 1963 and dedicated to his late wife Ethel in 1974 once completed, a massive archway gate situated at the front of the driveway that stands 16 feet high and 27 feet wide, incorporating 25 tons of concrete and rock.
Admitting that his wife Ethel probably wouldn’t care much for it, William made room for lights on the archway that would only light up twice a year, on Memorial Day and May 14th, Ethel’s birthday.
According to the excellent travel blog Detour Art Travels by Kelly Ludwig, William lugged rose quartz from Colorado and Arkansas himself to create the five-story rock garden. Visitors would have once enjoyed seeing dozens of beautiful flowers that complimented the diamond, spade, heart, and club playing card motifs on the third-level terrace with the beautiful pink rose quartz.
Sold by his family after his passing in 1989, William Notzke’s Jubilee Rock Garden is a wonderful creation by a man who just wanted to make others happy. Located on private property and maintained as best as it can be by its current owners, if you do travel to see it, be kind, be respectful, bring your own milk and watch out for holes and rocks scattered about.
Thanks again JP!