Carhenge, which replicates Stonehenge, consists of the circle of cars, 3 standing trilithons within the circle, the heel stone, slaughter stone, and 2 station stones, and the Aubrey circle, named after Sir John Aubrey who first recognized the earthworks and great stones as a prehistoric temple in 1648. It was not until excavations undertaken in the 1920's that they were found to be holes cut to hold timber uprights. A total of 56 holes were discovered and named the Aubrey Holes in honor of John Aubrey's observation.
The artist of this unique car sculpture, Jim Reinders, experimented with unusual and interesting artistic creations throughout his life. While living in England, he had the opportunity to study the design and purpose of Stonehenge. His desire to copy Stonehenge in physical size and placement came to fruition in the summer of 1987 with the help of many family members.
Thirty-eight automobiles were placed to assume the same proportions as Stonehenge with the circle measuring approximately 96 feet in diameter. Some autos are held upright in pits five feet deep, trunk end down, while those cars which are placed to form the arches have been welded in place. All are covered with gray spray paint. The honor of depicting the heel stone goes to a 1962 Caddy.
Carhenge was built as a memorial to Reinders' father who once lived on the farm where Carhenge now stands. While relatives were gathered following the death of Reinders' father in 1982, the discussion turned to a memorial and the idea of a Stonehenge replica was developed. The family agreed to gather in five years and build it. The clan, about 35 strong, gathered in June 1987 and went to work. They held the dedication on the Summer Solstice in 1987, with champagne, poetry, songs and a play written by the family.
Carhenge has been preserved by Friends of Carhenge, a local group, who now owns and maintains it. Reinders donated the 10 acres of land where Carhenge is located. They have added a paved parking lot, picnic tables, and an educational display board.
Additional sculptures have been erected at the site, known as the Car Art Reserve. One of the first sculptures to be added to the Car Art Reserve is a sculpture of a spawning salmon created by 29 year-old Canadian Geoff Sandhurst. Sandhurst won a $2500 prize and placement of his car art creation at the Reserve.
Reinders' "Ford Seasons", comprised only of Fords and inspired by Vivaldi's Four Seasons, suggests the Nebraska landscape's seasonal changes as wheat is planted, grows, is harvested, and then the field lies barren during a windy winter.
Carhenge's uniqueness, novelty and unusual components continue to draw the attention of film and television production crews as well as over
80,000 tourists from all over the world. All but 19 of the Aubrey holes have been developed, and those wishing to install a hole may do so upon application to Friends of Carhenge.
Friends of Carhenge began as a crusade to save the popular tourist attraction from the wrecking ball. Sherry Garett caught a message on the police scanner one day -- the sheriff's department was called to a property north of Alliance, owned by a distant relative of hers, because "someone" was planting cars in a field there.
It was the week of the Summer Solstice and the Reinders family had gathered for a family reunion on Jim Reinder's family farm. Reinders wanted to build something artsy, as a replica of Stonehenge, simply as a tribute to his father, Herman Reinders.
Soon the city council got involved and ordered the car art torn down. Garett visited with Councilman Paul Phaneuf to get an idea of what the city would require to keep Carhenge alive. She called a public meeting of Carhenge supporters at the site and the response was overwhelming.
"My desire to create Friends was because I thought that the city council was giving Jim a pretty bum rap on the "do's and don'ts of what could and could not be on his property."
In September 1989, the Friends of Carhenge began the preservation projects for what is now known worldwide as Carhenge. Garett continues to serve with the Friends organization.
"We've had many ups and downs," she said. "But we're surviving them."
Retired Panhandle Rural Electric Membership Association Manager Paul E. Phaneuf, 83, died Sunday, June 27, 2004, at Box Butte General Hospital in Alliance, Nebraska. He had entered the care of Prairie Haven Hospice May 29 after treatment for lymphoma.
Phaneuf and his wife Margaret came to Alliance in 1950 when he became PREMA's manager. He retired in January 1987.
From 1988 through 1996, he served on the Alliance City Council and also on the Alliance planning Commission and the Board of Adjustment. He was an avid tennis player and a charter member of the Alliance Tennis Club in the 1960s, teaching tennis classes for the Alliance Public Schools, the YMCA and the tennis club.
His family hosted three exchange students and Phaneuf served as a speech and debate judge for the schools, as well. He received the Charles J. Sherlock Senior Citizen Booster Award for 2000-01 and the Alliance Times-Herald's Person of the Year for 2001.
In 1988, he and others founded Friends of Carhenge. He was the president for more than a decade. With the Friends group, he organized events that helped generate national media attention for the unusual attraction and publicity for Alliance.
For several terms, he served on the governing board of the First Presbyterian Church of Alliance and was serving on the mission committee oat the time of his death. He was also a member of the Alliance Rotary Club for more than two decades, serving as president from 1996-97 and as a member of the board.
Paul Emile Phaneuf was born November 14, 1920 in Concord, New Hampshire to Joseph Phaneuf, a printer and Ida Guilmette Phaneuf, a music teacher. He graduated from Concord High School in 1937, where he was a member of the debate team and lettered in tennis.
In 1943, he graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with a BS degree and a major in electrical engineering. He and Margaret Mercer met in Cleveland, Ohio and were married there July 1, 1944, during World War II. they celebrated the 60th anniversary of their first date on Valentine's Day 2004 when they returned to Antioch college for an alumni reunion.
He served in the U.S. Navy and was discharged in 1945. Phaneuf is survived by his wife Margaret of Alliance; daughter Jean Farnsworth of Omaha, Mary Jo Jeffers of Valentine, Nebr., and Carol Farnsworth of Denver; two sons-in-law, two grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
There was a cremation and memorial services were at 10 a.m., Friday, July 2 at the First Presbyterian Church in Alliance.
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