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Nearly 50 years ago, God inspired Howard Finster to build Paradise Garden, an enormous display of sculptures and paintings scattered among a mirror-covered tree house, a tornado of rusted bicycles, and a towering church. Now Airbnb makes it easy to spend the night there.
Starting in the mid-’70s on a quiet street on the outskirts of Summerville, the late Howard Finster—a former Baptist minister and self-proclaimed “man of visions”—created 46,991 individually numbered outsider artworks dedicated to God on a four-acre compound dubbed Paradise Garden.
One sunny Sunday afternoon almost thirty years ago, Robert Sherer and two coworkers from the Lefont Theaters piled into a junker car to make the ninety-minute drive up to Pennville, a tiny Appalachian community where churches outnumber stoplights on the outskirts of Summerville. The punk rockers were on a “pilgrimage to Paradise”—the otherworldly garden created by Howard Finster, the Baptist preacher whose transformation into an artist had made him a quasi-celebrity.