Chatty Belle, the World's Largest Talking Cow

Chatty Belle, the World’s Largest Talking Cow

Chatty Belle, the World's Largest Talking CowIf you’re going to chat with a cow, why not pick one who chats back? Chatty Belle, the World’s Largest Talking Cow, is ready to converse with you in Neillsville. Chatty is a big Belle, standing 16 feet tall and 20 feet long; she’s about seven times largest than the average Holstein cow. But then again, the average Holstein doesn’t talk.

Chatty was for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City and was installed in Neillsville, the seat of Clark County, afterward. She given her name by a 1st grader who hailed from nearby Loyal in 1966 – the prize for the little girl’s naming skills was 100 pounds of butter and a trip through the Grassland Dairy Cheese Factory.

So with Chatty’s size, how productive would she be if she were real vs. a fiberglass Holstein? James Crowley, a former Extension Dairyman at the University of Wisconsin, ran the numbers and calculated that Chatty would produce 270 pounds of milk per day – that’s 83,000 pounds per year. She’s also consumer 11 tons of grain, equivalent to 24.5 tons of silage, per year. That’s 24.5 tons of silage for 41.5 tons of milk, if you like figuring the ratios.

Chatty was originally branded as the world’s largest cow, but there was a larger one elsewhere. So a coin-operated voice box was added, allowing her to keep the title of “World’s Largest Talking Cow.” Chatty’s conversational abilities lean toward touting Wisconsin’s dairy products (shocker) but her voice box has been off-and-on in operation lately, so we can’t guarantee she’ll be in a talkative mood when you see her.

Neillsville's WCCN Station and WI World's Fair Pavilion BuildingNext door is the building used for the Wisconsin Pavilion in the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City; its design is very 60s/Jetsons/retro-but-futuristic. This cool structure now houses WCCN-AM/FM & WPKG-FM radio, along with a gift shop that sells post cards and cheese. The broadcast-style tower atop the building, with “Wisconsin” spelled out in vertical lettering, drew plenty of attention at the World’s Fair.

Chatty sits right along U.S. 10 just east of downtown Neillsville. Highway 73 comes within a few blocks to the west; Highway 95 approaches Neillsville from the south and is also a good access point.

Address for Chatty Belle, the World’s Largest Talking Cow:

1201 E. Division Street (U.S. 10)
Neillsville, WI 54456
(715) 743-2222
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Fort Winnebago

Fort Winnebago Surgeon’s Quarters Historic Site

Fort Winnebago was constructed at the portage between the strategically important Fox and Wisconsin Rivers at the city of Portage in Columbia County. It was one of three forts built to protect settlers and commerce along the crucial Fox-Wisconsin Waterway; the other two were Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien at the Mississippi River and Fort Howard at Green Bay, making Fort Winnebago is only of these three built in the state’s interior.

Fort Winnebago Surgeon’s Quarters was built in 1824 as a trading post and is the only remaining building from the fort itself, which was deactivated in 1845. U.S. Army surgeons used the building for their quarters, hence the name. Next door, the Garrison School is a 19th century one-room schoolhouse built around 1850. It originally stood nearby on the corner of Garrison Road and the Military Road; it remained an active school building until 1960 and was moved to the Fort Winnebago site shortly thereafter. It has many interesting period artifacts and continues to be set up as a schoolroom.

The building is one of the oldest French Colonial log structures in the state; it’s owned, operated, and maintained by the Wisconsin Society Daughters of the American Revolution and is furnished with many 19th century period pieces throughout.

Fort Winnebago and Garrison School

Tours are available during the warmer months; they last for 90 minutes and are popular for school and senior tours. You can check it out during the season, which runs generally from mid-May through in season. Kayak, canoe, and bike tour groups can also schedule rest stops or overnights, where camping is available. The Heritage Gift Shop, located in a building dating back to 1858, will happily sell you crafts and articles related to this historic site.

You’ll find Fort Winnebago Surgeon’s Quarters Historic Site right along Highway 33 between the Fox River and Portage Canal crossings on the eastern end of the city of Portage. U.S. 51 and Highway 16 are about one mile to the west; I-39 and Highway 127 are about three miles to the west, and Highway 78 ends about four miles south, where I-90/94 runs. all of these highways bring you close.

Fort Winnebago entrance on Highway 33

Adults $7.50
Seniors (age 65+) $6.00
Children 6-18  $3.00
Children under 5 FREE
Families (2 adults and 2 children) $18.00
Students with School ID (18-25) $3.00
School tours children and chaperones each $3.00
Military: Active, Retired, Disabled with ID Free

1824 E. Wisconsin Highway 33
Portage, WI 53901
(608) 742-2949

US Bank Tower, Milwaukee

US Bank Tower, Milwaukee

The US Bank Tower has been Wisconsin’s tallest building since 1973. Once Milwaukee’s tallest by far for decades, several newer 30 story-plus buildings give it some company and created a fuller skyline that the US Bank Tower highlights rather than dominates.

The US Bank Tower rises 42 stories; it is 601 feet from street level to the roof.  The cross-bracing horizontal rows at floors 2-3, 16-17 and 41-42 give the building its distinctive look. Constructed from 1971-1973, it’s still the tallest office tower between St. Paul and Chicago (the cities, not the nearby streets.) It has 5,000 windows and encompasses 1.3 million square feet of space – mostly offices. A lower atrium features shops, places for workers to eat and drink, and connections to nearby buildings via several skywalks.

US Bank Tower with the Milwaukee skyline from Discovery World

Milwaukee’s skyline is growing, but the US Bank Tower remains the city’s tallest.

The US Bank Tower can be seen from 25 miles out in Lake Michigan. From the road, you can spot it from I-41/94 at the Milwaukee-Racine County line coming in from Chicago. It can even be seen from I-41 southbound near Highway 60 way out in Slinger, where elevation offers a long vantage point to downtown, especially when there are few leaves on the trees.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:

When Allan H. (“Bud”) Selig was Commissioner of Major League Baseball, he maintained his office in the tower (33rd floor, if we remember correctly), so in a sense the headquarters of MLB was in Milwaukee for two decades.


The US Bank Tower used to have a public observation deck on the 41st floor but it was closed to protect peregrine falcons, which have a hacking box up there for birthing and nesting.

US Bank Tower view of Art Museum to Lake Michigan

From the 40th floor of the US Bank Tower, you can easily see the Milwaukee Art Museum’s distinctive “wings” and quite a ways out into Lake Michigan.

The US Bank Tower is easy to spot, of course. The building is close to a ton of key attractions in Milwaukee, including Discovery World, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, Summerfest and Henry Maier Festival Park, the Historic Third Ward, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and many more. The view it from I-794 and the Hoan Bridge is part of a fantastic city skyline view. U.S. 18/Michigan Street literally runs under the building’s atrium, and Highway 32/Milwaukee Street is just a few blocks away. I-43, I-94, and Highways 38, 57, 59, and 145 all come within a mile of the building.

777 East Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Northern Wisconsin Tobacco Pool Warehouse

Northern Wisconsin Co-op Tobacco Pool Warehouse

In Viroqua just east of downtown along Highways 56 & 82 you’ll find the Northern Wisconsin Co-op Tobacco Pool Warehouse. It was originally built in 1906 by Martin Bekkedal, who immigrated to Wisconsin in the 1880s and became the largest tobacco wholesaler in the state at a time when tobacco was one of Wisconsin’s biggest cash crops.

Despite the curious fact that it’s actually in southwestern Wisconsin, what makes it unique?

Well, it became the nation’s first tobacco marketing cooperative. They formed as a response to a significant drop in the price of tobacco in 1921. Its method of enlisting most of the area’s tobacco farmers to better control market prices – creating a tobacco “pool” – inspired the emerging pool of dairy farmers in the state and became the model so many ended up using.

Now privately owned, this historic building contains offices, a receiving room where tobacco got weighed, storage areas, and “sweating rooms” where tobacco was heated to 115 degrees for curing. (Today, they could do “hot yoga” classes in there.) It is not currently open for tours, but it would be a good idea.

You’ll find the Northern Wisconsin Co-op Tobacco Pool in Viroqua along Highways 56 & 82 (Decker Street) just east of the north-south main drag that is also U.S. 14/61 and Highway 27.

Northern Wisconsin Tobacco Pool Warehouse Address:

504 E. Decker Street (Highways 56/82)
Viroqua, WI 54665

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Temple Theater, Viroqua

Temple Theater logoThe Temple Theater sits inside a classical revival building constructed in 1922 along Viroqua’s Main Street. This elegant venue entertained people from across the area with vaudeville shows, silent movies, musical productions, and other civic events during the mid-20th century. Like most theaters, it closed for a while. A 2002 renovation gave the Temple Theater new life, and it entertains audiences once again.

The building evokes the high-class Neo-classical facades of both vaudeville and traditional theaters. The original interior recalls both classic European opulence and the ornate vaudeville venues in larger American cities. Motifs in the classical revival style can be seen in the cornices, friezes, and moldings of the ceiling and walls of the vestibule. These motifs extend to the lobby, theater house, around the arched stage opening, and in the metal work of the organ grill. The original art-glass globes still hang in the auditorium. The original back screen – with hand-painted local advertisements – still hangs at the rear of the stage. The original screens on either side of the stage, the orchestra pit, even the stage machinery used in live productions and the scenery loft remain intact. The original Wurlitzer organ that provided accompaniment to silent films has been re-purchased by ARTT (Associates of the Restored Temple Theater.)

Temple Theater in Viroqua

Two stores and a Masonic Temple share the building. The Temple Theater itself now serves as a civic and cultural center for the area, hosting a variety of shows and performers. The main venue features 550 seats and a new sound system installed in late 2015.

You’ll find the Temple Theater along Main Street in downtown Viroqua; four state highways (U.S. 14, U.S. 61, Highway 27, and Highway 82) go right past it. Highway 56 crosses a few blocks away.

116 S. Main Street
Viroqua, WI 54665
(608) 606-2340