The Langlade County Historic Museum is housed in an original Carnegie Library, constructed with a grant from Andrew Carnegie in 1905. It served as the public library for Antigo until 1997 and now features historic items from around Langlade County.
The Deleglise Cabin on the grounds showcases the typical early structures of northern Wisconsin, many of which were built along early military trails. This cabin, originally built in 1878, housed the Deleglise family and later church services and a printing office for a local newspaper, the New County Republican. Inside the cabin you can check out original items such as a chest of drawers from the 1850s and an altar from the 1870s.
Also on the ground is Railroad Park, with a restored Union Pacific 440 steam locomotive originally constructed in 1900. She worked through Kansas and Nebraska before being retired in 1955; the locomotive was on display in Lincoln, Nebraska and then at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin, before being moved here to Antigo in 2005. Some restorations to the train and a roof for it were completed in 2007.
You’ll find the Langlade County Historic Museum right along U.S. 45/Highways 47 and 52 (they’re all combined on this stretch) in Antigo, just south of the downtown crossroads. Highway 64 is just to the north.
In Elkhorn, Walworth’s County Seat, you’ll find the home of composer Joseph Philbrick Webster, who songs were popular through the Civil War and beyond. The well-maintained Greek Revival-style cottage was constructed in 1836 and was originally located in Elkhorn’s public square (today’s Courthouse Square) and served as the federal land grant office, which sold land to Walworth County pioneers before Wisconsin’s 1848 statehood. It was also used as a temporary courthouse before a “real” one was constructed.
The Websters moved in after the house was moved to its current location at Rockwell & Washington Streets, where they added a kitchen and bedrooms while also creating a music room.
Webster’s descendants sold the house to the county in 1955; it opened a museum the following year. On August 8, 1970, the Webster House Museum was named a Wisconsin State Landmark and the official marker went in.
A tour of the museum shows off plenty of period items, including the square rosewood piano on which the composer created and played old classics like “Lorena” and “Sweet By and By.”
The Webster House Museum is just south of Elkhorn’s downtown and the junctions of Highways 11 and 67; U.S. 12 and I-43 are also nearby.
Mid-May through mid-OctoberWednesday through Saturday, 1-5pm or by appointment
9 E. Rockwell Street
Elkhorn, WI 53121
(262) 723-4248 Website
An impressive art museum in the heart of Wausau – which itself is in the heart of Wisconsin – the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum covers four acres and is housed in a beautiful 1931 Tudor mansion. Their “Birds In Art” exhibition is world-class, filled with contemporary artistic representations of all kinds of birds, from paintings to sculptures. It’s truly a prime destination for nature art lovers – and admission is free!
The Museum also hosts a series of events from art exhibits to concerts and holiday celebrations. Check their website’s event calendar for updated schedules.
The Museum’s hours are:
Tuesday-Friday 9am-4pm, with extended hours until 7:30pm on the first Thursday of each month
Closed Mondays and major holidays
You can get to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum via Highway 52, with I-39, U.S. 51, and Highway 29 all close by!
700 N. 12th Street
Wausau, WI 54403
(715) 845-7010 Website
The John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) offers a variety of concepts and directions in contemporary art with particular consideration of craft-related forms, installation works, photography, new genres, ongoing cultural traditions, and the work of self-taught artists. They have an impressive collection of permanent exhibits and a dynamic series of rotating ones. Their ARTspace gallery offers international collections and exhibits.
The JMKAC has a world-renowned Arts/Industry program, considered one of the most unusual ongoing collaborations between arts and industry in the country (the Kohler Corporation’s involvement is, of course, one reason for this.)
Hearthstone is the first house in the world to have electric lights powered by a centrally located hydroelectric station that used the Edison system. It began operation on September 30, 1882 with a generator situated in the beater room of the Appleton Paper and Pulp Company. The three buildings that were lighted on that historic occasion were the Appleton Paper and Pulp Company owned by John Van Nortwick and run by Henry J. Rogers who owned the home on the bluff above, now known as Hearthstone, and Kimberly & Clark’s Vulcan Paper Mill located nearby. There was one other generator in the nation at the time, in New York City. It powered several business, but no homes – giving Hearthstone its distinctive title.
A tour of Hearthstone includes the Hands-On Hydro Adventure Center, with plenty of interactive activities for kids and grown-ups. And of course, old mansions are cool. Evening tours are available during Haunted Hearthstone and Victorian Christmas or by appointment.
Hearthstone is closed Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
General Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for Seniors or AAA members, $5 for kids 5-17, free for kids under 5.
Thursday — Friday: First tour begins at 10 am
Saturday: First tour begins at 11 am
Sunday: First tour begins at 1 pm
Tours are conducted every half hour with the last tour of the day beginning at 3:30 pm
You’ll find Hearthstone right along the Fox River near downtown Appleton along Highway 47. Highway 125 (College Avenue) and Highway 96 (Wisconsin Avenue) are just to the north; U.S. 10 and Highway 441 are just to the south and I-41 wraps around the west and north sides of the city. Plenty of ways to get there!
625 W. Prospect Avenue
(920) 730-8204 Website
Located in a library and part of the La Crosse County Historical Society, the Swarthout Museum features an extensive look at the history of La Crosse, features one of the few remaining horse-drawn fire pumpers in the world, and rotates exhibits frequently. You’ll find a lot of artifacts and period clothing from as far back at the 1850s, when La Crosse first became a city.
112 9th Street N
La Crosse, WI 54601
(608) 782-1980 Website
The Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. With 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns, Hamilton’s collection is one of the premier wood type collections in the world. The Museum is also home to an amazing array of advertising cuts from the 1930s through the 1970s, and all of the equipment necessary to make wood type and hot metal type.
Located between the East and West Twin Rivers on Lake Michigan, the Hamilton Manufacturing Company (right behind the Historic Washington House, home of the ice cream sundae) was the largest wood type producer in the country, when virtually everything was letterpress printed. The company was founded in 1880, and along with wood type they manufactured medical office furniture, light tables, the first gas powered clothes dryer and more. Hamilton is still around; over 130 years old now, they make steel lab equipment.
The Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum relocated to the former Formrite Company building, where they doubled their space and have a nice view of Lake Michigan. You’ll find it just off Highway 42 at 10th & Madison, just south of Highway 310.
1816 10th Street
Two Rivers, WI 54241
(920) 794-6272 Website
Built as an immigrant hotel and saloon in the 1850s, the Historic Washington House lays claim to inventing the ice cream sundae. Around 1881, they dished up ice cream and chocolate sauce, but only in sodas. One customer started asking for a dish of ice cream topped with the sauce and they began selling it that way, but only on Sundays. Shortly thereafter, a 10-year-old girl requested a dish of ice cream with “that stuff on top” on a different day of the week, suggesting they could “pretend” it was Sunday. Between that and the long canoe-shaped dishes in which the ice cream was served being known as “sundae dishes,” the ice cream sundae was born.
Today, the Washington House serves up sundaes but also history, with seven rooms and an old ballroom to explore, filled with items of interest from military to 19th century doctors’ and dentists’ offices to historic knick-knacks. The building itself is well-preserved and even has its original decorative tin ceiling.
The ice cream parlor is a must of course, so order one up and dig in! There are 18 different sundae flavors to choose from. The Washington House is open seven days a week from 9am until 5pm (summer hours ’til 9pm). You’ll find it one block east of Highway 42 in downtown Two Rivers, right near the ends of Highways 147 and 310.
1622 Jefferson Street
Two Rivers, WI 54241
(920) 793-2490 Website
Housed in a former railroad depot and part of the Green County Welcome Center, this charming little museum is located on the west side of Monroe along Highway 69. Outside, you’ll find the charm of a train station, a fiberglass cow and some large copper kettles, all part of a “Memory Walk.” Inside, you’ll find a remarkable display of cheesemaking tools workers used dating back to the 19th century to make so much of the cheeses that made Wisconsin famous. Vats, weights, wringers, presses, old packaging, advertisements, and more fill this museum. Pieces of the former, 100+ year-old Imobersteg Cheese Factory were moved to the museum in 2010, and the 2nd Saturday in June every year Master Cheesemakers come in and produce a 90 pound wheel of Swiss cheese using the old equipment.
The Depot is itself also features original train station materials, including old schedules, an original bench, photos and more.
Cows and kettles dot the landscape in front of the National Historic Cheesemaking Center.
The Depot Welcome Center offers travel information on Monroe, Green County, and area trails as well as the National Historic Cheesemaking Center.
An original typewriter and schedule from the days way back when the trains roared through here are just a few of the classic items you’ll find in the Depot.
Some of the cheesemaking equipment in the National Historic Cheesemaking Center includes plenty of vats, weights, wringers, presses and old packaging that held cheeses made back in the 1800s.
You’ll find the Depot and National Historic Cheesemaking Center on the southwest side of Monroe along Highway 69, just south of Highways 11 and 81 and southwest of the end of Highway 59. The Illinois state line is about six miles to the south.
2108 6th Avenue
Monroe, WI 53566
(608) 325-4636 Website
Perched on Eagle Bluff just outside Fountain City along Highway 95 near Highway 35 and the Great River Road, Elmer’s offers one of the largest displays of muscle, classic, antique, and pedal cars and trucks in the country, some dating back to 1910. Over 100 pedal tractors are on display along with thousands of toys, antique tools, and dolls, some of which date back to the 19th century. It’s right outside Fountain City near the Monarch Public House and Fountain City Brewing Company; this is also one of the highest points along the Mississippi, so run around and check out some beautiful views!
W903 Elmers Road
Fountain City, WI 54629
(608) 687-7221 Website