Wright Here, Wright Now

By Jennifer Garrett
This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

It is hard to think of Frank Lloyd Wright without also thinking of Wisconsin, and it is equally hard to think of Wisconsin without thinking of Frank Lloyd Wright. The Madison area especially reflects a longtime love affair (with all the drama, and often discord you’d expect from any fine romance) between a man and a city, a city and a man.

The soaring roof of the Unitarian Meeting house, Wright’s iconic contribution to Madison’s west side. Taliesin, his ever evolving living workshop built into the hills of Spring Green. Monona Terrace, a landscape-changing lakeside convention center brought to life years after the famed architect’s death.

And most of us don’t have to reach too deep into our brains to think of another of his major contributions to the architecture pantheon: the spiraling Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, with its ramped modern art galleries and ethereal central skylight in New York City; Fallingwater, the rural Pennsylvania landmark home cantilevered over a waterfall; and the series of stately residences scattered throughout Oak Park, Ill., Chicago and other nearby suburbs.

Yet we hold Wright, who was born in Richland Center (located about an hour west of Madison) and spent much of his childhood in and near Madison, particularly dear in these parts. his indelible touch shaped not only the built environment in central Wisconsin but also the architectural sensibilities of its residents, many of whom still favor the horizontal lines of Prairie Style that Wright championed in the early part of the 20th century.

But it isn’t just a church, convention center and an aura that remains. For decades Wright worked as a prolific architect, moving easily from residential to commercial work and back again. Hundreds of his buildings, including several private residents in Madison, still stand. While not open to the public, they hide in plain sight with varying degrees of visibility from city streets and sidewalks. Take a drive or a walk to witness a few for yourself.

Lamp House, 1903 (22 N. Butler St., Madison)
Situated in the middle of the block on Madison’s narrow isthmus, the Robert M. Lamp House is an early example of Wright’s residential architecture. The boxy cream brick home predates both Wright’s ubiquitous Prairie-style designs with their strong horizontal lines and his more aspirational and economical Usonian homes with their compact floor plans and extensive use of natural materials. The Lamp House has invited controversy over the years, as local preservationists have fought redevelopment on the street. The owner, a developer himself, currently rents the building and has not publicly expressed concern over the reclamation infill projects and redevelopment in the neighborhood. Set far back on a narrow lot in a built-up neighborhood, the Lamp House is visible from the street, but you’ll have to crane your neck.

Airplane House, 1908 (120 Ely Lane, Madison)
The Eugene A. Gilmore house, more commonly known as “The Airplane House” is a classic example of Wright’s Prairie style. The large home was designed for University of Wisconsin law professor Eugene Gilmore. Look for the prow, which Wright also incorporated into Oak Park’s famed Robie House, which lends the house its nickname.

Jacobs First House, 1937 (441 Toepfer St. Madison)
Widely regarded as the first Usonian home, the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs First House is a modest ranch on Madison’s west side. Reportedly built for $5,500, including the architect fee, the home was the first of many of Wright’s experiments with both spatial and cost economies that eventually included built-in furniture, reclaimed materials and prefabrication.

Pew House, 1938-1940 (3650 Lake Mendota Drive, Madison)
Known colloquially as the “poor-man’s Fallingwater,” the John C. Pew house is a classic example of Wright’s Usonian ambition. Set on a narrow and steep lot, and cantilevered over a ravine instead of a waterfall (as is Fallingwater, which Wright is rumored to have called “a rich-man’s Pew House” when the comparison was made to him), the structure is textbook Wright with strong horizontal lines, cypress interiors and in-floor radiant heat. The home, changing owners for only the second time, sold in 2006 for $1.5 million.

Jacobs Second House, 1946-1948 (3995 Shawn Trail, Middleton)
Unique among his designs, Wright’s semicircular house was an early experiment with passive heating and cooling. Wright had the northern façade built into the earth as a windbreak, and he crafted a bank of windows facing south toward a sunken garden to bring in warmth and light. The house used in-floor radiant heat with iron pipes set in gravel beneath the lower-level concrete floor, although the National Register of Historic Places registration form indicates that the owner later added a radiator to the second-floor bathroom and subsequent owners completely modernized the heating system.

History suggests that a dispute between Wright — widely assumed to have been contentious with customers — and his client, Herbert Jacobs, caused a rift during the bulk of construction. This left Jacobs to oversee the completion of the home without assistance from Wright.

Van Tamelen House, 1956 (5817 Anchorage Road, Middleton)
Set back from the circle and largely obscured by the landscaping and topography, the Eugene Van Tamelen house provides a peek into Wright’s dream to bring affordable design to the masses. Wright collaborated with Marshall Erdman & Associates, a local design and construction firm, to create three sets of plans for prefabricated Usonian homes. Customers received their kits after submitting topographic maps of lots to Wright, who, showing his tendency to control details normally left to clients, would select the site for the home. the Prefab no. 1 single-story, l-shaped Van Tamelen House was the first of the Erdman Prefabs to be built.

Rudin House, 1957 (110 Marinette Trail, Madison)
The Walter Rudin House is the first of only two completed Erdman Prefab no. 2 designs. Constructed of concrete block, the home’s signature feature is the two-story living room with stunning walls of windows.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

The Big Top Lives On

By Lisa M. Schmelz
This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

dogs2When I was young and could carry off a sequined bodysuit, I dreamed of joining the circus and dazzling the crowds with my trapeze skills. Without a second thought or long-term disability insurance, I would soar gracefully through the air to some dashing leotard-clad man patiently awaiting me — upside down — on the return fly bar. In his firm grip, with a trust only trapeze artists and bomb squad veterans can know, we would twist, flip and sail our way into the hearts of the mere mortals below.

Sadly, my dreams of living life mostly 25 feet up came crashing down when I had a panic attack at age eight on the golden gate Bridge. Even in the middle lane, seat-belted and unable to see out the back window of my parent’s Chevy, I was terror-filled at the realization that there was no net ready to catch us should we fall. All that was between us and the Pacific was a long stretch of asphalt in a quake-prone region. If we plunged, I wouldn’t even have had the satisfaction of dying in a snazzy trapeze ensemble. Where’s the glory in that?

elephantandshowgirlAcrophobia has remained with me all these years, but it has not eclipsed my awe for all things “circus.” Nearly every form of entertainment can find its roots — or at least some third cousins once removed — in the circus. You can thank — or curse — this blessed institution for modern performers like Lady Gaga.

“I don’t know,” says veteran ringmaster David SaLoutos, laughing at the Gaga reference. “Maybe she goes to the sideshow. But she definitely goes to the circus roots as an entertainment form. She embodies a lot of that colorful and larger-than-life aspect. Circus was the most popular form of entertainment in this country for well over 50 years, and there’s still something about it that appeals to the, if you want to say, child in all of us.”

In Wisconsin, you can experience the thrill that never grows old at Circus World in Baraboo, where SaLoutos has served as ringmaster since 1978, guiding audiences through a cotton candy world of magic and dreams. Circus World sits on the grounds of what was once the Ringling Bros. Circus winter quarters, along the banks of the Baraboo River. In 1884, it was here that the brothers founded one of America’s most beloved circus families. More than a century later, you can still see the circus of yesteryear up close on these shores. There are all the acts you’d expect of any circus, plus a museum steeped in history and the world’s largest collection of circus wagons.

Under a one-ring big top, SaLoutos directs live animal acts, featuring elephants and tigers, world-class jugglers, single-bar trapeze artists, acrobats, and an array of comedic entertainers. Beyond the big top, there’s a breathtaking collection of intricately carved and beautifully restored circus wagons. More than two-thirds of all known circus wagons in the world are housed at Circus World. Equal parts beauty, transportation and advertisement, circus wagons could be powered by horse or loaded onto the flatbeds of trains.

Circus World also lets you peer into the past via hundreds of artifacts and exhibits, each telling a story all its own. During the performance season, guided tours of historic Ringlingville, the name for the original Ringling Bros. Circus winter quarters, are available daily. Buildings here date back to 1897 and are the largest surviving group of original circus structures in North America.

A recreated circus wardrobe department, showcasing 19th-century costumes, gives visitors an idea of how taxing it was for designers and their staff to create the 2,000 costumes needed for each new season.

Even Lady Gaga herself would pine for some of these magnificent duds. But would she wear it 25 feet above the ground, hanging upside down in the splits?


This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Finding Freedom: Wisconsin’s Underground Railroad

By Lisa Schmelz

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Ex Mag 1921

Exact numbers will never be known, but archival records indicate that between 1842 and 1861 more than 100 escaped slaves appear to have found freedom by way of Wisconsin. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, even the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 — which subjected anyone helping an escaped slave to stiff penalties — didn’t stop Wisconsin abolitionists.

As slaves and those who aided them — like Joseph Goodrich — went to great lengths to hide their efforts, exact details of exactly how and where the underground railroad operated in Wisconsin are still not entirely clear. But one documented site still with us today, and open for public tours, is Milton House.

“There are a lot of rumored properties around the state, with claims to be tied to the underground railroad, and quite a few in Burlington, Wis. but most haven’t been verified by the national network to freedom,” says Cori Olson, executive director of Milton House. “As far as I know, we’re the only remaining structure [in Wisconsin] verified and open for tours.”

At Milton House, in the rural community of Milton, near Janesville, visitors experience a true underground passage. built by underground railroad conductor and Wisconsin pioneer Joseph Goodrich, who founded the town of Milton, Milton House is today a national historic landmark. Goodrich and other pioneer Milton families were members of the Seventh Day Baptist Church, and had ventured west to Wisconsin from upstate New York in 1938. Ardent abolitionists, they became active locally in the Underground Railroad.

A bustling inn in its day, runaway slaves entered a log cabin about 10 feet behind what was then the Milton House Inn via a trap door. Originally only three-feet high, the tunnel was widened in 1954 and lined with stones to more safely accommodate tour groups. In the mid-1800s, though, this door to freedom looked no different than the door to any root cellar standard for the era.

Once past the trap door, runaway slaves navigated the 45-foot-long tunnel until they reached the inn’s basement. It was here in the basement that the Goodrich family provided those seeking freedom with shelter and food. For all this to go undetected was indeed remarkable. Located on what was then territorial road — and today Wisconsin Highway 26 — the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad crosses here meant Milton and Milton House Inn were busy, thriving places. At its peak, 27 stagecoaches and 36 trains stopped daily at this rural hamlet.

Though Goodrich could not make known Milton House’s status as a stop on the Underground Railroad, he did make known his staunch opposition to slavery. In 1852, and under his leadership, the Seventh Day Baptist Church’s general conference adopted this resolution:

“Resolved, that we enter our solemn protest against the system of American slavery, as a sin against God, and a libel upon our national declaration, that all men are created equal, that we regard the fugitive slave law as an atrocious violation of the rights of humanity … and that to aid in its execution would be treason to Jesus Christ.”

The Milton House remained in the Goodrich family until 1948, when members donated it to the Milton Historical Society. Five years of restoration work ensued and in 1953, Milton House was opened as a museum — a secret no more. An addition in 2006 allowed the museum to be open year-round.

For information on hours, admission and more, go to miltonhouse.org.

Like Milton, Racine County also had a strong abolitionist community. The corridor between the cities of Racine and Burlington is mentioned frequently in oral history related to the Underground Railroad. The Racine Heritage Museum explores that history in detail with its “this train Is bound for glory: Racine County’s Underground Railroad” exhibit.

Here, stories of secret hiding places, narrow escapes and a community spurred to action are brought to life with artifacts, images and an interactive Underground Railroad role-playing activity.

The First Presbyterian Church in Racine is also available for tours. The church proudly proclaims to be Racine’s longest-standing congregation. Here, runaway slaves are believed to have hidden in crawl spaces and secret passages — possibly on Sunday mornings while church members were in the sanctuary for worship. While firm evidence to support its stop on the Underground Railroad is lacking, the oral history is strong enough that the church offers free tours to groups.

Tours are not scheduled on a regular basis and must be requested at least two weeks in advance. Equal parts architectural — with access to possible hiding spaces — and art, the tour also includes an exhibit of quilts, highlighting African-Americans’ struggle for freedom.

Also in Racine is the Joshua Glover Commemorative Marker. The marker is located at Racine’s Monument Square, at the intersection of Main Street and 6th Street. It tells Wisconsin’s moving and most famous story in the battle against slavery. On March 30, 1854, a large crowd assembled in the very spot to protest the capture of Joshua Glover, a Missouri slave.

Abolitionists across southeastern Wisconsin surrounded the Milwaukee jail housing Glover, broke down its doors and ultimately were able to help him make his way to Canada.

The jail is long gone, but a marker commemorating Glover’s forcible release is located at Cathedral Square Park, at the intersection of East Kilbourn Avenue and North Jackson Street in Milwaukee.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.



LumberJack Life Lives On

By Molly Rose Teuke

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Like the majestic white pines they cut down, lumberjacks of yore loom large in our collective memory. Timber still represents a key piece of Wisconsin’s economy, with tens of thousands of public and private acres under active management for timber harvest. Logging techniques are very different today, but the Wisconsin Forestry Museum and Lumberjack Steam Train in Laona bring early logging history to life.

Next best thing to a time machine
Your visit starts at the historic Soo Line Depot located on Highway 8 just a quarter mile west of the junction with Highway 32, where you’ll claim a seat on the Lumberjack Steam Train. For more than six decades, this train carried lumberjacks to and from logging camps along the Laona Northern Railroad.

Purchase your ticket and then it’s “All aboard!” for a three-mile ride to the site of an 1890’s logging camp, Camp 5, whose name reflects the tradition of naming camps with successive numbers as loggers completed their work and moved on. In 1914, the Lumber Company Farm was developed at the site of Camp 5 to raise meat, produce and draught horses for Camp 5 and other camps of the Connor Lumber & Land Company.

Several historic buildings remain from those early days and are part of the Wisconsin Forestry Museum: an old hog barn (now a petting corral), a blacksmith shop (now part of the museum) and the old slaughter house. because of its historical and cultural value, in the 1980s, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

At the museum, you’ll learn about logging from its heyday to the present in a video called “Northwoods Saga.” The Forestry Museum houses an extensive collection of tools and other artifacts chronicling the hard work of loggers, as well as household items that added a small measure of ease to an otherwise laborious life. Original account ledgers offer insight into the business of the early forest products industry.

Logging was winter work, with snow and ice roads enabling loggers to transport their product with draught horses pulling sleighs piled as high as 30 feet with massive logs. If the sleigh driver was fortunate, he wore a bear coat to keep warm — you’ll see one in the museum.

The combination of hard work and cold temperatures — often below zero — meant lumberjacks needed hearty meals before and after a hard day in the woods. these were big men with big appetites, and among the artifacts in the museum, you’ll see griddles three feet across. At the blacksmith shop, a skilled blacksmith works at the original forge to pound out mini horseshoes for visitors.

Next, hop on a motorized surrey for a half-hour narrated “green treasure forest tour,” which has won the National Award in Education from the Arbor Day Foundation. Follow the tour with a quiet stroll on the Ecology Walking Tour, a short interpretive trail that leads over an old “corduroy road” and into the forest. There’s also a hands-on nature center on site, along with a working 1900 Cracker Barrel store, and the Choo Choo restaurant, where you’ll find tables in case you brought your own picnic.

I can chop faster than you can
The men who lived the rugged, dangerous logging life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were strong, skilled and competitive. Their work kept them fit and gave them constant opportunity to hone their skills. occasional sporting contests, coupled with ongoing rivalries, helped them keep their edge and their pride.

Today, logging requires very different tools and skills. finesse with the controls of equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars has replaced skill with an ax or crosscut saw. but skills from the heyday of muscle-driven logging remain alive and tested, thanks to a dedicated group of modern day lumberjacks. Every summer, strong men and women gather in Hayward, Wis., to vie for a world title in such timber sports as sawing, chopping, logrolling, boom running, pole climbing and more.

Launched in 1960, the Lumberjack World Championships have drawn competitors from several countries — Australia, Canada, the Czech republic, England, New Zealand, Switzerland and of course, the United States. given Wisconsin’s strong logging traditions, it’s not surprising that many competitors hail from closer to home. the Lumberjack World Championships are held the final weekend in July and are open to the public.

Another place to see lumberjacking at its finest is Scheer’s Lumberjack Show in Hayward and Woodruff. Many of the show’s performers are champions who have earned world titles. take Charlie Fenton, two-time world title holder in the classic boom run competition. or Fred Scheer himself, who held four world titles in logrolling, and one world title in the boom run. Log rolling? Boom run? These were important skills back in the day, when logs were moved downriver and someone had to be able to break up log jams and keep logs of many sizes flowing profitably to a mill. Though much timber came to be moved by rail instead of water, the lumberjacks’ river arts didn’t die out altogether.

In lumberjack lingo, the art of keeping your balance on a spinning log was called birling. In the modern-day version of logrolling, two competitors — birlers — vie to be the last one standing. they twirl the log with their feet, trying to unbalance one another. Bobbing the log and using a kick to splash their opponent is fair game. Crossing the centerline is not. Birlers interested in world titles are not allowed to touch one another.

In the boom run, two competitors race across the water and back on side-by-side booms — logs chained together end to end — without losing their balance and falling in. Fenton earned the nickname “boom King Charlie” for his prowess at this balancing act.

He held the world title in 2012 and 2013, and missed it by mere hundredths of a second in 2014. “The guy who took it from me has been competing longer for it and I really enjoy competing against him,” says Fenton. He’s quick to add, “I’m happy to give the title to him, but I am going to get it back.”

Looking forward to his seventh season with Scheer’s, Fenton says one of the things he appreciates about the show is the emphasis on family fun. Many families return year after year, he says, and “they love that it’s just the same as they remember it…. We really strive for customer satisfaction. We want to see people walking out with smiles on their faces after every single show.”

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Looking Back

By Kristine Hansen

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

America’s most well-known museums celebrating Jewish culture are in major cities like New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Yet Milwaukee quietly hosts an intimate museum along the same vein, filled with interactive exhibits, maps, historical documents and archived photographs. The difference is that it’s focused on Wisconsin’s Jewish population.

Jewish Museum Milwaukee opened along bustling Prospect Avenue on the Lower East Side in 2008. Within the same building (the Helfaer Community Service Building) are the Milwaukee Jewish federation’s executive offices and the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, making it a serious hub for Milwaukee’s Jewish culture.

Immediately upon entering, which requires passing a Holocaust Memorial outdoors that was commissioned in 1983, visitors are encouraged to watch a short film about diversity that exists within Wisconsin’s Jewish community. The video contains interviews with local celebrities, including philanthropist Barbara Stein and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s former theater critic Damien Jaques, as well as children and senior citizens, challenging the notion that all Jews look and act alike, when, in reality, their ethnic background is vast. It is a common religion they share — more so than the countries their ancestors were born in. a Marc Chagall tapestry, “the Prophet Jeremiah,” which hangs on the wall behind visitors as they view the video, has been there since the building’s establishment in 1973. Earlier this year, a traveling exhibit of etchings by Chagall arrived at the museum.

Viewing the permanent exhibits housed on the building’s first floor, it becomes obvious that the extensive curating is the result of individuals holding onto memorable objects for decades. This includes a thoughtful letter written in Prague, Czechoslovakia, during the war: one gentleman, in corresponding with his first cousin in Milwaukee, included his wife’s gorgeous fashion-design sketches in hope of her finding work in Milwaukee so they could receive “affidavits of necessity.” Sadly, they did not survive the war. It also includes a pale-pink beaded dress worn to a Milwaukee Jewish Community Center Beaux arts Ball, and a copy of a steamship ticket from Warsaw in 1923; for three adults, the cost was $548.28. Yet, the museum is as much a place for contemplation as it is for memorabilia; through survivor interviews aired on a television inside one cubicle, we can begin to understand the Holocaust and what the experience did to Jewish families in Milwaukee.

Beginning with Milwaukee’s first wave of Jewish immigrants during the 1840s, who were mostly German-speaking, the exhibits document their efforts to establish roots in Milwaukee. a second wave of Russian and eastern European Jews followed. The Industrial Removal Office, which placed some Jewish families on farms in Wisconsin and other states, helped 2,500 Jewish immigrants get to Milwaukee by providing transportation and work upon arrival. The Jewish population would continue to grow. A touchscreen, interactive map in the museum reveals that by 2006, 31,430 Jews called Wisconsin home.

Many found jobs just as other immigrants did — as inventors or operators of grocers or delis. Most will recognize Kohl’s grocery Store, Goldmann’s Department Store and Jake’s Delicatessen as contemporary examples, yet even before that there was Phoenix Knitting Works, the company that invented the first pair of silk stockings during the early 1900s.

For museum visitors not familiar with Jewish culture, religious objects on display are carefully explained, such as ketubah (marriage contract); grogger (for the Purim holiday): menorah (a nine-branched candelabrum lit for Hanukkah): torah (religious texts handwritten on parchment paper with a quill pen); and a Passover plate. A timeline that covers world events from the 1840s to 2008 wraps around one wall, including events such as Bob Dylan’s first album release, 9/11, the fall of the Communist regime in the Soviet union and eastern Europe, and the year the floppy disk was invented. This helps visitors see how Jews’ struggles mirror those of other world cultures in a simple quest to lay down community ties, raise families and find good jobs.

The exhibit closes with an opportunity for those of Jewish descent — or who identify as Jewish — to record a video inside a closed room. Those videos are aired outside the room on a later date for all to see, as the departing portion of the exhibit. Earlier in the exhibit is an opportunity to complete a form that goes into the museum’s database, a continued effort to document Jewish life in Milwaukee.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.



Homes of the Rich and the Famous

By Lisa Schmelz

This article originally appeared in the 2012 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

A long time ago before GPS, I bought a map of the stars’ homes in Beverly Hills. In a dented Camry, I set out to see how the “other half” lived. But more often than not, massive concrete walls and towering wrought-iron gates limited my view. Twenty years later, I found myself living within 10 miles of Lake Geneva and some of the nation’s most impressive and historic mansions.


Unlike Beverly Hills, however, I am welcome here, and I can actually see entire homes without fear of arrest.

What makes this possible? Two things: The first is a walkable shore path that covers the entire lake and is open to the public. The second is narrated lake tours offered by Lake Geneva Cruise Line on eight classic vessels. Against the backdrop of a spring-fed lake, you can appreciate why prominent Chicago families were drawn here after the Great Fire. Though all the mansions are glorious and represent varying styles of architecture, here are three must-sees.

Wadsworth Hall

I dare you to not let your jaw drop when you walk or fl oat past the home of venture capitalist Richard H. Driehaus. This Georgian Revival was built in 1906 for Norman Wait Harris, founder of Harris Trust and Savings Bank. When Driehaus, an ardent preservationist, purchased it in 1998, he began an extensive renovation to return the home to its original condition. The central footprint of the mansion is a 50-foot-long hall from which the east to west wings project. The hall’s grand staircase is 12 feet wide, and the main house boasts 13 bedroom suites. The Mount Vernon bedroom features a framed flag, sewn by a granddaughter of Betsy Ross, and a rare French facsimile of the Engrossed Declaration of Independence; the estate has its own curator to carefully manage pieces such as these. Known today as the Driehaus Estate, it’s also the setting for some of the most successful fundraisers for area nonprofi ts. A noted philanthropist, Driehaus underwrites all costs for charitable events held here.

Stone Manor

Once the largest home on Geneva Lake, Henry Lord Gay designed this palatial estate for Otto Young in 1899. A German immigrant who came to America when he was 14, Young’s first job was selling cigars for $3 a week; ultimately, he would make his way to Chicago and open a jewelry wholesale company. His wealth, however, came from shrewd real estate investments following the Chicago Fire, including land Chicagoans now called “The Loop.” Initially, Stone Manor was to cost $150,000, but budget over-runs made it the lake’s first million-dollar home. Young died in 1906, and a granddaughter later donated Stone Manor to the Episcopal Church; it would become the St. Anne’s Episcopal School. Today, the home has been fashioned into six luxury condominiums, with one massive unit occupying the entire first floor. A pool is located on the rooftop and residents park their cars in an underground garage. The first-floor, lake-facing terrace alone is 3,000 square feet.

Yerkes Observatory

Real stars can’t be seen in Beverly Hills, but they can at Yerkes, where astronomers operate the world’s largest refractory telescope. Named for Charles T. Yerkes, who helped finance it, the observatory was designed by Henry Ives Cobb from plans drawn by American astronomer George Ellery Hale. Construction started in 1895. Today, Yerkes is the observing facility of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the University of Chicago. In 2005, university officials sought to sell the architectural treasure to a residential developer, but public outcry halted the plan. Even Albert Einstein thought this place was special; when he visited the United States for the fi rst time, the two places he asked to see were Niagara Falls and Yerkes Observatory. Yerkes offers free public viewing opportunities throughout the year. The grounds, at 373 W. Geneva St., Williams Bay, can be walked during the daytime; visit astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes for more information.

This article originally appeared in the 2012 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.



Battleground Training

By Jennifer Garrett

This article originally appeared in the 2012 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Badger football practices might feel like boot camp, but the real soldiers took the field long before the team set foot at Camp Randall.image001

Most of us know it as the place where the Wisconsin Badgers, at least as of late, run roughshod over visiting football teams. yet the famed stadium’s history goes back even further than that. While the earliest crowds gathered at what we now know as camp Randall for state fairs, the site earned its first real distinction a bit later when some 9,000 army volunteers arrived in 1861 to train for service in the civil War.

Named after wartime Wisconsin Governor Alexander Randall, who later served as Postmaster General of the united states, camp Randall emerged as the primary training ground for Wisconsin soldiers during the civil War.

Over the course of four years, 70,000 of the state’s 91,327 troops trained here.

During that time Camp Randall also housed 1,400 confederate prisoners of war who had been captured at island 10 in the Mississippi River and at Shiloh. Many of them died either from their wounds or from intolerance of Wisconsin’s cold winters. Their bodies are buried in a portion of west-side Forest Hill Cemetery known as “soldier’s rest,” making it the northernmost Confederate cemetery.

So while Abraham Lincoln never slept here, Camp Randall was then and remains now an important site in Wisconsin’s Civil War effort.image002

“All states had some kind of training ground. Wisconsin had several. Camp Randall wasn’t the only one, but it’s the one that most soldiers went through,” says Michael Edmonds, head of digital collections and web services for the Wisconsin Historical Society and author of Wicked Rebellion, a new title from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press that features Civil War letters from Wisconsin soldiers. “Camp Randall became important in Wisconsin memory because it was the place where the most significant event of their lives began.”

Most of these soldiers, Edmonds points out, were previously farmers or shop keepers who volunteered for the war out of a sense of duty. They generally were not career military men, although some of the officers running camp Randall had been trained at West Point and others had served in the Mexican-American War.

Few photographs remain from the civil War period, and many details of camp life have been drawn from soldier letters and personal records housed with the Wisconsin Historical society. These accounts suggest that camp life was at times quite harsh. Measles and other illnesses were not uncommon, and food rations were at times plentiful and at other times scarce or spoiled. Wintertime drills were run regardless of snow or temperature. Relations between the camp and Madison were also sometimes strained as soldiers enjoyed nearby taverns perhaps a bit too much and landed in jail.

These wartime conditions, however, were not unique to Camp Randall, Edmonds says. Yet the overall atrocities of the war itself spurred many veterans to preserve the site and its memory. In fact, veterans groups are largely responsible for Camp Randall’s transition from soldier training grounds to football stadium. In 1893, years after the civil War ended, the landowners contemplated parceling and selling the site as building lots. Veterans protested, and the landowners sold camp Randall to the state legislature, which immediately deeded it to the University of Wisconsin. Veterans then successfully petitioned the Wisconsin Board of Regents to retain the Camp Randall name in place of other options, such as Randall Field.

Camp Randall hosted its first football game just two years later in 1895. The state later built the iconic Memorial arch in 1911 to commemorate the Civil War training grounds, and the university built the original stadium and launched the modern era of Badger Football at Camp Randall in 1917.

The early respect for and reverence of Camp Randall’s army origins began to fade in the 1960s when the University of Wisconsin became a hub of anti-war activity during the Vietnam era. While the university never denied them, the school certainly distanced itself from the military roots of Camp Randall.

“After the Vietnam War years, people didn’t want to talk as much about [it],” says David Null, Director of University Archives.

Yet as time passed and sentiments toward the Vietnam era evolved, the university and its supporters welcomed the renewed interest in camp Randall’s origins. Null says the Civil War years, along with subsequent military uses, are now readily embraced as part of University and football legacy.

This article originally appeared in the 2012 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

By Lisa Schmelz

This article originally appeared in the 2013 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans swept away by the surprise PBS hit “Downton Abbey,” put Black point Estate in Lake Geneva on your summer must-see list. No, Black Point is not Highclere Castle big, but even the Dowager Countess would be impressed by the summer residence of Chicago beer baron Conrad Seipp.

“Every time I give a tour,” says docent and local historian Ginny Hall, “I mention that this is a treasure, a real treasure, because you don’t often see both an historical building and the furnishings of the family that lived in it.”

Built in 1888, and designed by architect Adolph Cudell, Black Point has indeed remained blissfully frozen in time. While the Geneva lake shorefront has undergone a dramatic transformation, losing historic estates to condos and high-density subdivisions, Black Point is a reminder of a bygone era, when steam-powered yachts were the vessel of choice and opulence reigned.

Like so many of the Windy City’s well-to-do at the turn of the century, particularly after the Great Chicago Fire, Seipp saw the shores of Wisconsin’s Geneva Lake as the perfect place for his large family to summer. Sadly, he enjoyed the Queen Anne Victorian for just two years before dying from pneumonia. His descendents, however, continued to come for 120 years. Swim House

But in 2005, Seipp’s great-grandson, the late William O. Petersen, did something that would have shocked downton’s Crawley family: He gave the estate — and almost everything inside it — to us common folk. Now a museum owned by the State of Wisconsin, Black Point Preserve, as it’s known, is a destination for history and architecture lovers from around the world. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, it also holds one of the nation’s largest, intact collections of Victorian furnishings.

“These are not period pieces used to recreate what life was like at Black Point,” says Hall. “These are the actual pieces of furniture used by the family.”

Public tours of Black Point can only be accessed via Lake Geneva Cruise Line (www.cruiselakegeneva.com). Aboard one of the line’s period vessels, visitors arrive just as the Seipp family did a century ago. Disembarking, they are embraced by 620 feet of undisturbed shoreline and a towering forest of over 70 species of trees, all planted by members of the Seipp family.

Inside the 20-room mansion is proof that summers here were an elite experience. The dining room comfortably seats 40. Thirteen bedrooms provided ample space for family and friends. Custom woodwork is the norm, and etched and stained glass bear the patriarch’s initials.

Seipp’s second wife, Catharina, and their seven surviving children spent the entire summer here, while the men of the family commuted on weekends. from the annual hoisting of the family’s flag, to classroom instruction for children by a private tutor, to sailing and swimming, Black Point was both a retreat and a place to expand the mind and body.

Servants, of course, kept the estate — which included farms, orchards, livestock, a greenhouse and a cutting garden — running smoothly. Today, the building that housed a separate kitchen and the servants’ quarters is gone, and Black Point’s acreage has been reduced from over 100 to a humble seven. What remains, though, is more than enough to tell the story of the seven generations who made the estate an annual part of their lives.

Steeped in family and tradition, Hall says Black Point is something most of us — regardless of class or position — can relate to.

“It’s how families stay together,” says Hall. “if there aren’t traditions that families hold onto, then families tend to kind of break away.”

This article originally appeared in the 2013 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Escape Within The City

By Carolyn Kott Washburne | Photos Courtesy of Milwaukee County Parks

This article originally appeared in the 2013 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Lake Golf links 1914

Visiting Lake Park is as restorative today as when the park was completed in the late 1890s — especially when leaves crunch underfoot and the cries of migrating birds pierce the air above.

The park, on Milwaukee’s East Side, was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Among others, he designed Central and Prospect Parks in New York City, parks in Buffalo and Chicago, and Mount Royal Park in Montreal.

Created in the romantic style of the great parks of Europe, Lake Park beautifully expresses Olmsted’s vision. Rather than formal, manicured gardens, he sought to blend open meadows with large stands of trees with areas that offer protective shrubbery for wildlife. His goal was to provide a natural oasis from city life for all people, regardless of social class.

“Olmsted called them ‘parks of the people,’ because he felt that everyone should be able to escape the density and dirt of the city — which at that point was pretty dirty,” says Dolores Knopfelmacher, a member of the Lake Park Friends History Committee. “He wanted people to feel as if they were going into the country, which is why Lake Park is so natural.”Lake Golfer Fall

Olmsted also loved to design the unexpected into his parks. In Lake Park, he could incorporate the small streams that cascade through the ravines as well as views of Lake Michigan, which adjoin the park. “He purposely designed the paths so you’d be lost for a while, such as in the ravines,” says Knopfelmacher. “Then you come to a new place and all of a sudden see the vista of the lake. He loved that little bit of surprise.”Lake Park Lion Bridge Summer

In addition, Olmsted wanted to achieve a balance of two forms of recreation, “passive” — areas for reflection and enjoyment — and “active” — areas for sports and recreation. Over the years, a number of “active recreation” features have been added, including a children’s playground, tennis courts, golf course, lawn bowling green, baseball and soccer/rugby fields, ice skating rink, bicycle path and exercise/jogging trail.

One important feature of the park is the prehistoric Indian Mound, which reminds visitors of the area’s original inhabitants. The conical mound, two feet high and 40 feet across, is the last known mound remaining in the city of Milwaukee. The rest were leveled in the late 1800s for farmland and building sites. It is believed that the mound was built by the peoples of the Mid-Woodland culture (300 B.c. to a.d. 400), hunter-gatherers who constructed their mounds as burial or ceremonial centers.

To preserve the site, in 1910, the Wisconsin Archaeological Society placed a historic plaque on the mound. Lake Park itself was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. This distinction was achieved in part by the work of Lake Park Friends, an active non-profit group whose mission is to promote the preservation and enjoyment of the park. friends volunteers pitch in to do many tasks, from pulling weeds to restoring crumbling masonry. They also raise funds to sponsor educational, recreational and cultural events, including the popular, free “Musical Mondays” summer concerts.

The only commercial establishment in the park, Lake Park Bistro (lakeparkbistro.com), offers fine dining in a historical pavilion high on a bluff overlooking lake Michigan. Today’s Lake Park is a delightful cornucopia of walking paths, ravines, bluffs, carriage drives, waterfalls, brooks and rustic bridges. an enchanting time awaits visitors of all ages.

This article originally appeared in the 2013 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.



Pioneer Girl

Story by Mary Bergin | Photos courtesy of Connect2them.com unless otherwise noted

This article originally appeared in the 2014 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Long before trumped-up reality TV shows, we had “Little House on the Prairie,” the gentle drama about a pioneer family’s ongoing struggles and triumphs. production of the popular television series ended in 1983, after a nine-year run, but the legacy of the woman who made these stories possible remains very much alive.laura girl 1

Laura Ingalls Wilder based much of her writing on her own family’s hardships, hopes and heartfelt challenges during frontier living. She survived a bout of diphtheria, buried a child 12 days after birth, lost a home to fire and moved often during childhood as her adventurous parents sought a less harsh place to call home.

What began as diary writing turned into short stories about pioneer life, then a dozen books for children, translated into at least 40 languages. This work began in earnest only after the resilient woman and her husband were able to make a down payment on a 40-acre farm with $100 saved from her work as a seamstress.

“It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures, and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong,” she wrote at age 80, in a letter to children. That brave and optimistic spirit prevails in her stories.

At least six states claim this award-winning author as their own. Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota have preserved homes of her youth and adulthood. Missouri maintains Rocky Ridge Farm, where her best-known books were written.

Wisconsin is home to an important part of “America’s Favorite Pioneer Girl,” too. Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 in a simple log cabin surrounded by wooded bluffs, seven miles north of Pepin, and lived there two years, until her family moved to Kansas. They were back in Pepin by 1871, then on to Minnesota three years later.

The once-wooded Wisconsin homestead is next to farmland today, and on a three-acre memorial is a re-created Ingalls cabin, called Little House Wayside. In the vicinity are Amish families, whose no-frills lifestyle and work with teams of horses harken back to pioneer days.

Pepin, population 7,500 and on Highway 35 (part of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway), is home to a historical museum whose artifacts recall the Ingalls’ era. An expansion of this former clothing store and auto shop was dedicated this year.

During the second full weekend of September, Laura Ingalls Wilder Days resurrect the pioneer way of life. Costumed craftsmen demonstrate blacksmithing and woodworking, in daylight and by candlelight. Square dancers promenade, swing and do-si-do.

Children compete in a spelling bee, shuck corn and tie on a bonnet for the Laura look-alike contest. Pie eating, tomahawk throwing and quilt showing events court adults. Carved wooden trophies go to winners of the Olde Tyme Fiddle Contest.

Much of this happens in or near Laura Ingalls Wilder Park.

The area — which includes Pepin Lake, a wide section of the Mississippi River – was the author’s inspiration for the 1932 “Little House in the Big Woods,” her first book.

Her birthplace is one of five stops on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, which recognizes her journeys and homes, modest dugout to two-story farmhouse.

She was nearly 70 years old when Harper Brothers in New York published “Little House on the Prairie,” a handwritten manuscript. Her books remain in print, through Harper Collins Children’s Books. Find details at littlehousebooks.com.

This article originally appeared in the 2014 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.