I saw it briefly as I drove east on Route 2 in Alliance, Nebraska. Carhenge, the small sign said, and the arrow pointed left. It was too late to make the turn, so I continued on and doubled back. A short ways north on Flack Street, out of town actually, there it was, Carhenge.
It was cold windy day, so I didn’t get much further than the parking lot and gift shop. I wasn’t dressed to go out wandering into the sculpture itself.
This place is not to be confused with Cadillac Ranch. Erected in 1974, that is a line of upended old Cadillacs half-buried nose first in a field near Amarillo, Texas. I’d passed by that a few days previously, but I do have my standards. Cadillac Ranch, by the way, was funded by local Panhandle oil heir Stanley Marsh III, who died in 2014 in the midst of some messy legal stuff involving young boys after years of rumored sexual proclivities and hushed-up complaints.
Unlike the Cadillac Ranch, where it is said to be tacitly OK to graffiti to one’s heart’s content, Carhenge is a more somber, serious sort of place, fitting I guess, given what it was meant to replicate.
Artist Jim Reinders had the opportunity to study the design and purpose of Stonehenge while living in England and built Carhenge as a memorial to his father, Herman, who once lived on the farm where the sculpture now stands.
When relatives gathered following Herman’s death in 1982, the discussion turned to a memorial and the idea of a Stonehenge replica was developed. The family agreed to gather in five years and build it. The clan, about 35 strong, gathered in June 1987 and went to work.
According to Reinders, “It took a lot of work, sweat, and beers”. A few years later, he donated Carhenge and 10 acres around it to a nonprofit group, Friends of Carhenge. In 2013, the Friends group turned it over to the City of Alliance.
Carhenge consists of 39 automobiles arranged in a circle measuring about 95 feet in diameter. Some are held upright in pits about 5 feet deep, trunk end down, and arches have been formed by welding automobiles atop the supporting models. The heelstone is a 1962 Cadillac.
I won’t go into all the history and details of Stonehenge itself, except to say it is a collection of standing stones, presumably because there were no automobiles back in 3000 BC.
Fair warning: In the course of doing some research for this I discovered there’s a toilet seat museum in San Antonio, TX. I was just there in June, renewing my friendship with the Riverwalk area, and completely missed the museum. Next year perhaps, and maybe also a visit then to the Spam Museum in Austin, MN. I passed a couple hours south of that in June, not realizing it was there.