Rock City Gardens
SEE ROCK CITY
1400 Patten Road
Summer hours 8:30 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Admission: adults - $8.95, children 3 -12 years old - $3.95, children under 3 - free
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when my then-partner Peter Yronwode and i travelled the back roads of America, we often saw signs painted on the sides and roofs of barns that advertised Rock City, a roadside attraction built on top of Lookout Mountain, overlooking Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The signs lured us with enticingly cryptic messages like "Stay on U.S. 41 and See Rock City!" "See Seven States From Atop Lookout Mt.!" and "When You See Rock City You See the Best!" -- but we never actually went there. After a while, we learned that a friend of ours, Barrance C. Lespine, had also travelled the South and was likewise fascinated by the Rock City advertising signs. He never went there either.
Adding to the mystique of this strange place from which one could "See Seven States" was the fact that back in the 1930s one of my favourite rural blues musicians, Blind Willie McTell, had actually recorded a song that mentioned Rock City. McTell, a Georgia-born 12-string guitarist, travelled the South extensively and in the beautiful "Drive Away Blues," he extolled the sights to be seen from atop Lookout Montain. Like many blind songwriters, McTell casually used visual imagery as a metaphor -- but partway through the song, he unconsciously transformed the wondrous view from Rock City into a poignant blind man's fantasy -- a place from which one can HEAR Seven States:
Goin' high up onto Lookout Mountain, and look down to Niagara Falls,After a while, Barry and i took to jokingly referring to any large archaeological stone complex -- like the Great Pyramids, Machu Picchu, Petra, and Tikal -- as "Rock City," just for laughs. I think i was the one who first set the words "Rock City" to the tune of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean songs "Surf City" and "Drag City." ("Yeah, i'm gonta Rock City, gonna have some fun...")
Niagara Falls, Sweet Mama, Niagara Falls
Goin' up onto Lookout Mountain, look down to Niagara Falls,
Seem like to me i can hear my Atlanta mama call,
I hear her call
Don't fret and worry and don't grieve after me,
Sweet Mama, afer me
Don't grieve or worry, or don't fret after me,
Don't you scream and cry 'cause i'm goin' back to Tennessee
Aw, boy, play the Drive Away Blues for me...
"Rock City" became sort of private code between us for all the lost wonders of the ancient world we had never viewed first-hand. Sometimes we sent each other old linen-finish postcards depicting archaeological digs or modern stone architecture with the cryptic phrase "See Rock City" written on them. In 1995, Barry sent me some old cards of the real Rock City which he'd found at a yard sale. On the back of one of them he wrote:
CITY OF GOLD"
"THE GRAIL CASTLE"
"THE CITY NOT MADE
"HEAR THE STORY
SEE THE GLORY!"
"SUITABLE FOR FRAMING"
-- which kind of summed up our almost 30 years of fantasizng about the place.
Rock City -- the concept of a home-built theme park atop a sacred mountain, not the actual site, which i still have never seen -- fueled my personal interest in vernacular architecture of the "roadside attraction" type. I have collected literature and postcards on these places for years, and have visited as many as i could, but i have rarely discussed my interest in this sort of thing with anyone but Barry and another friend, Fred Burke.
Some academic attention has been paid to the phenomenon of home-made sacred sites (especially to the influence of the Dickeyville Grotto in Wisconsin on what is academically termed the "Upper Midwest Concrete Grotto Environment") -- and a couple of popular books have touched on the best known examples, but i know of no pictorial survey of these sites per se.
"All Their Own," written in 1977 and now out of print, is the only book i have that presents clear, archival photos of both Dickeyville and S. P. Dinsmoor's Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas -- but the volume deals mostly with small oddball homes (bottle houses and the like), not with sacred or didactic sites -- and the "meaning" behind the works is given short shrift in favour of delighting in their oddity.
"California Crazy," "The Well Built Elephant," and "Ducks and Diners" are three 1980s books that illustrate the charming commercial "emblematic" architecture of the early to mid 20th century in which the form of a building is determined by its use (e.g. a teapot shaped restaurant and a shoe shaped shoe repair shop) -- but as the sites are commercial ventures, there is little or no religious, spiritual, or didactic content to their architectural layout.
A few non-vernacular but nonetheless oddball sacred sites created by wealthy people, such as the Singing Tower in Lake Wales, Florida, and Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile, Alabama, have been the subject of their own books or pamphlets, but most of these sites are more stately than wacky, and in any case the publications describing them are long out of print.
Both the book "Roadside America" and the web site it spawned contain a lot of fun information about roadside attractions, but there is a tongue-in-cheek quality to the suthors' presentation that does not serve vernacular sacred sites as well as it does commercial roadside architecture.
In 1997, the photographer David Jenkins, with the help of the 81-year old retired Rock City sign painter Clark Byers, assembled a beautiful documentary book on the fast-fading splendour of Rock City's barn signage. Of the more than 700 barns in Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and Louisiana that Byers and his crew had once kept painted with those signs, only 250 remained standing in 1994 when the photography project began -- and of those, only 85 were still being regularly repainted by Rock City employees. Jenkins' gorgeous book, "Rock City Barns: A Passing Era" is an important testament to the cultural role of vernauclar sacred sites in America.
Rock City was not conceived as a sacred site, but in scope, placement, and execution it transcends the small commerical "emblematic" buildings and home-sized oddball vernacular architecture with which it is sometimes classed. It is a roadside attraction, but its placement on the landscape gives it something that might be called "natural feng shui goodness" -- which most such sites lack. It straddles the gulf between "theme park," "outsider art" and "earth mystery" -- and thus it holds more interest to me than its status as "a tourist attraction" would otherwise imply. But then, i am a rather oddball person myself. The fence posts on my long driveway are decorated with abalone shells. The fence posts on my vegetable garden are decorated with horseshoes. In 1996, i commissioned a stone carver to engrave a big river rock with the words "Et in Arcadia Ego" and i set it up in my flower garden.
Rock City means a lot to me, not for what it is, but for what it reminds me of about my own as-yet unaccomplished hopes and dreams. I live on two acres in Northern California at present and do not have the room to undertake a large building project, but i am blessed with the love and co-operation of nagasiva yronwode, a similarly-inclined companion, and together, stone by stone, he and i are building a little Rock City of our very own. We call it Arkaotika, and its motto is "Et in Arcadia Ego."
In 2009, to celebrate ten years of wedded bliss, nagasiva and i hired the inspired sign painter and political activist Lenny Weinstein of Don Quixote Artworks in Monte Rio, California, to paint our old barn, which was built in 1875, with the SEE ROCK CITY message. As far as we know, it is the only See Rock City barn west of the Rockies. Yes, folks, the See Rock City barn on this page is not an old Tennessee relic. It is our barn, on our own land, in Forestville, California, painted by Lenny Weinstein, shown here lettering the word "Beautiful," which his work certainly is.
If you can't make it to Rock City, you can always come see us.
Search All Lucky Mojo and Affiliated Sites!
You can search our sites for a single word (like archaeoastronomy, hoodoo, conjure, or clitoris), an exact phrase contained within quote marks (like "love spells", "spiritual supplies", "occult shop", "gambling luck", "Lucky Mojo bag", or "guardian angel"), or a name within quote marks (like "Blind Willie McTell", "Black Hawk", "Hoyt's Cologne", or "Frank Stokes"):
copyright © 1995-2019 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
Send your comments to: cat yronwode.
Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to catherine yronwode for the creation and maintenance of this site.
LUCKY MOJO is a large domain that is organized into a number of interlinked web sites,
each with its own distinctive theme and look.
You are currently reading
SACRED LANDSCAPE by cat yronwode.
Here are some other LUCKY MOJO web sites you can visit:
OCCULTISM, MAGIC SPELLS, MYSTICISM, RELIGION, SYMBOLISM
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by cat yronwode:a materia magica of African-American conjure
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy and sacred geometry
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
The Lucky Mojo Esoteric Archive: captured internet text files on occult and spiritual topics
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive:FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century occultist
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, and more
Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races
Hoodoo and Blues Lyrics: transcriptions of blues songs about African-American folk magic
EaRhEaD!'S Syd Barrett Lyrics Site: lyrics by the founder of the Pink Floyd Sound
The Lesser Book of the Vishanti: Dr. Strange Comics as a magical system, by cat yronwode
The Spirit Checklist: a 1940s newspaper comic book by Will Eisner, indexed by cat yronwode
Fit to Print: collected weekly columns about comics and pop culture by cat yronwode
Eclipse Comics Index: a list of all Eclipse comics, albums, and trading cards
EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course with cat yronwode: 52 weekly lessons in book form
Hoodoo Conjure Training Workshops: hands-on rootwork classes, lectures, and seminars
Apprentice with catherine yronwode: personal 3-week training for qualified HRCC graduates
Lucky Mojo Community Forum: an online message board for our occult spiritual shop customers
Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour Radio Show: learn free magic spells via podcast download
Lucky Mojo Videos: see video tours of the Lucky Mojo shop and get a glimpse of the spirit train
Lucky Mojo Publishing: practical spell books on world-wide folk magic and divination
Lucky Mojo Newsletter Archive: subscribe and receive discount coupons and free magick spells
LMC Radio Network: magical news, information, education, and entertainment for all!
Follow Us on Facebook: get company news and product updates as a Lucky Mojo Facebook Fan
The Lucky Mojo Curio Co.: spiritual supplies for hoodoo, magick, witchcraft, and conjure
Herb Magic: complete line of Lucky Mojo Herbs, Minerals, and Zoological Curios, with sample spells
Mystic Tea Room Gift Shop: antique, vintage, and contemporary fortune telling tea cups
catherine yronwode: the eclectic and eccentric author of many of the above web pages
nagasiva yronwode: nigris (333), nocTifer, lorax666, boboroshi, Troll Towelhead, !
Garden of Joy Blues: former 80 acre hippie commune near Birch Tree in the Missouri Ozarks
Liselotte Erlanger Glozer: illustrated articles on collectible vintage postcards
Jackie Payne: Shades of Blues: a San Francisco Bay Area blues singer
Lucky Mojo Site Map: the home page for the whole Lucky Mojo electron-pile
All the Pages: descriptive named links to about 1,000 top-level Lucky Mojo web pages
How to Contact Us: we welcome feedback and suggestions regarding maintenance of this site
Make a Donation: please send us a small Paypal donation to keep us in bandwidth and macs!
OTHER SITES OF INTEREST
Arcane Archive: thousands of archived Usenet posts on religion, magic, spell-casting, mysticism, and spirituality
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: psychic reading, conjure, and hoodoo root doctor services
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic, plus shopping
Crystal Silence League: a non-denominational site; post your prayers; pray for others; let others pray for you
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Hoodoo Psychics: connect online or call 1-888-4-HOODOO for instant readings now from a member of AIRR
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith; prayer-light services; Smallest Church in the World
Mystic Tea Room: tea leaf reading, teacup divination, and a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Satan Service: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including ex-slave narratives & interviews
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective, plus shopping
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Yronwode Institution: the Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology