A carpenter and gardener by trade, Romano Gabriel spent nearly three decades crafting hundreds of objects from packing crates that he used to fill the front yard of his Pine Street home in California. The yard, approximately 30 by 60 feet, was filled from front to back, side to side, with figures of various size and shape so that passersby couldn’t help but stop and look.
When Gabriel died in 1977, local preservationists moved in and claimed all of the carpenter’s work. They transplanted the garden to a two-story glass enclosure next to a bank where Gabriel’s brightly painted flowers and trees are on display 24 hours a day and maintained by the Eureka Heritage Society.
According to a longtime friend of the artist, some of the wooden figures were meant as commentary on contemporary events and people. Some of the pieces were animated by small motors.
Born in Mura, Italy, in about 1887, Gabriel worked as a furniture maker before heading to America at the age of 26. After serving in World War I, Gabriel settled down in Eureka where, as an introvert who enjoyed working alone and with his hands, he built at least six different houses. He crafted the garden from about age 50 to 80, living another ten years after he put the final touches on the last piece. On the day Gabriel died, the California Arts Council designated his sculpture garden an important piece of folk art.
Know Before You Go
Take U.S. Hwy 101 to D St. The garden is located two blocks north.