On Saturday, Dec. 8, artist Leon Wiesener debuted his newest creation in Carrabelle.
Wiesener has constructed a garden house with walls made of bottles and special high-strength mortar. Other ornaments include tines from a hay mow and disembodied hands. The house is pentagonal with a shingled wooden roof.
The artist initially believed 2,000 bottles would be enough but rapidly realized he had underestimated. The walls contain more than 6,000 bottles of various shapes and sizes, as well as large lenses and wooden windows salvaged from a 150-year old house.
“I initially asked people to bring stuff over and drop it at the gate, but I wound up dumpster diving from Lanark to Apalachicola,” Wiesener said.
After creating a level foundation, Wiesener built the house “by eye.” Different colored bottles are used to create designs in the walls.
Wiesener said he started the house in early February and finished it in November, although he is still “playing with it.” He said he and his wife Frances plan on opening the bottlehouse, and future projects related to it, to the public as a tourist destination within Carrabelle.
“We are also building a website and linking with a group of architects out of Georgia who are building and documenting bottlehouses all over the south,” Wiesener said.
This is not the first bottlehouse .William F. Peck's Bottle House in Tonopah, Nevada is believed to have been the earliest example of the bottlehouse phenomenon. Built in 1902, sturdy and square, and made with 10,000 beer bottles, it was torn down in the early 1980s.
Peck’s house, like many bottlehouses, was constructed in a gold rush town where building materials were in short supply. Early mining camp settlers made shelters out of whatever they could get their hands on, including discarded bottles. Saloons were among the first businesses to open in the camps so there were plenty of liquor bottles on hand. Other houses in Tonopah were built entirely of coal oil cans and barrels.
Wiesener acknowledged the original bottlehouses were created out of necessity, but he has raised it to an art form.