the our lady of grace grotto

FATHERS M.J. KAUFMAN AND DAMIEN LAVERY Our Lady of Grace Grotto (ca. 1920s-1931)

500 W Mt Pleasant St, West Burlington, Iowa, 52655

This complex was built in the early 1900s. Some records state it was started as early as 1920, with others saying it might have been as late as 1929. Not in dispute is that it was completed in 1931 by Benedictine Fathers M.J. Kaufman, the idea person, and Damien Lavery, the designer.

A tourist attraction for many years as a garden of peace, inviting people to come and reflect on their faith, it fell into decay in the 1950s and was entirely overrun with vegetation until, in 1973, pastor Jack Denning mobilized the parish to restore it. Today, the members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church help maintain the grotto and volunteer their time to keep the water flowing from the geode-studded shrine to a fountain and numerous pools.

The grotto, erected in memory of Our Lady of Grace, was built entirely of donated rocks. Contributions were received from every state and many foreign nations. Many of the stones came from the Holy Land. Inside the grotto, the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is flanked by two seashells, one from the Atlantic Ocean and one from the Pacific Ocean. Its domed interior sparkles with the glint of quartz crystals found in geodes.