A whimsical tribute to England's famed Stonehenge, Nebraska's Carhenge evokes both smiles and expressions of surprise from visitors and locals who stop to view the unique sculpture, which sits on 10 acres outside the small town of Alliance in the state's High Plains region.
Carhenge is the creation of sculptor Jim Reinders who - with the help of family members - erected his replica in 1987 as a tribute to his father, who farmed the land on which the sculpture sits. Reinders had previously lived in England and had shown particular interest in studying the design and purpose of the famous English landmark, which archaeologists believe was erected around 2500 BC. Upon returning to the U.S., Reinders, who had already designed a number of unusual creations made of unique materials, devised the idea of a replica built with old automobiles and dubbed it "Carhenge.''
Nebraska boasts a number of roadside sculptures but Carhenge is probably the most well known. It consists of a design that very closely echoes Stonehenge. A circle of cars makes up the major portion of the sculpture. Inside the circle are 3 standing trilithons (two vertical cars supporting a horizontal car). Outside are the heel stone, the slaughter stone, two station stones, and the Aubrey circle, which is named for Sir John Aubrey, the professor who is credited with recognizing Stonehenge as a prehistoric temple.
The circle measures 96 feet and the proportions of the Carhenge sculpture match those of Stonehenge. Some of the automobiles have been welded into place while others sit in 5-foot-deep holes with their trunk ends down. All the cars are spray painted in a stony gray color. The make and model of the cars vary but Reinders specifically selected a 1962 Cadillac for the heel stone.
The lot where Carhenge sits has become something of a roadside art gallery. Dubbed the Car Art Reserve, the acreage is now home to a number of additional sculptures including a spawning salmon by artist Geoff Sandhurst, a dinosaur, a "carnastoga wagon'', and another piece by Reinders known as "The Ford Seasons'', inspired by a Vivaldi musical composition.
Carhenge is no longer maintained by the Reinders family but by an organization of locals known as Friends of Carhenge. The organization has recently added a paved parking lot and picnic tables for visitors who wish to linger at the site and an educational display board near the sculpture tells of the design and building process that developed into Carhenge.