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Rasmus Petersen was a Dansk immigrant who settled in central Oregon in the early 1900s at 17. In 1935, at 52, the farmer began constructing a rock garden on his 4-acre (1.6 ha) home, using shells, petrified wood, glass, and stones (agate, jasper, lava, malachite, obsidian, thundereggs) he found within an 85-mile (137 km) radius of his home, making detailed miniature castles, churches, and other small buildings and monuments such as a 7-ft (2.1 m) Statue of Liberty , the US Capitol Building, Independence Hall, and a concrete American flag. He incorporated other design elements such as bridges, lagoons, lily ponds, streams, and natural landscaping. A small museum features a fluorescent room with miniature castles made from manganese, tungsten, uranium, and zinc that glow in the dark. He spent the last 17 years of his life on the project. After his death in 1952, Petersen's Rock Garden became known as Petersen Rock Garden. At its height, supported by traffic from the Old Bend-Redmond Highway, the garden drew approximately 150,000 visitors a year; one of them, Ira McKissen, wasinspired to build nearly a dozen castles on the terraces of his home in Rowena in the 1980s (some of these were relocated to his daughter's house, 5 mi (8.0 km) west of The Dalles along the Historic Columbia River Highway, the first planned scenic roadway in the US, built through the Columbia River Gorge between 1913 and 1922. Petersen's Rock Garden was listed as one of the state's Most Endangered Places by the Historic Preservation League of Oregon (Restore Oregon) in 2011, claiming it needed "maintenance, a business plan and a publicity campaign to ensure stewardship and funds are available to overcome vandalism, theft, and condition issues." The following year a contractor damaged one of the stone bridges, leading to an effort to document the garden using laser scanning and other technologies. A Portland-based company, i-Ten, measured and archived the site's geospatial data, allowing future rebuilding to match the original construction, and the garden was closed from February to May in 2013 to restore the grounds and remove dead vegetation and junk from outbuildings. Its reopening was attended by members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, who sang and blessed the garden. On 30 October 2013 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is still owned and operated by Petersen's grand-stepdaughter, Susan Caward, and her family, which is considering opening a cafe on the grounds, turning the family home into a bed-and-breakfast, reorganizing the museum, adding a small amphitheater to host outdoor concerts and other events, and creating additional rock sculptures mimicking Petersen's style.
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