Two Rivers, Wisconsin

After watching an episode of Netflix’s “Amazing Vacation Rentals” that featured a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, we decided to check it out for a fun weekend.  Our oldest son and his wife joined us for the adventure.

Still Bend, back yard

The Bernard Schwartz House, or Still Bend as Wright named it, was built in 1940.  The construction was based on a plan Wright submitted for Life Magazine’s Dream Home.  In his own words . . .  “I think this plan recognizes it for pretty much what it is – a little private club – with special privacies, ultra conveniences and style all the while.”

Today you can rent the house to experience Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and life style first hand like the original owners.  Tours are also available.

As you pull into the driveway, the front of the house is very unassuming.  The front door is hidden so you’re not immediately sure where to go in.  Once inside, it’s definitely Frank Lloyd Wright.  The low entrance area gives way to a grand two story living and recreation room.  Wright used red tidewater cypress board and batten and red brick for the interior that gives the space a warm glow, particularly at night.

Living Room
Living Room
Downstairs Bedroom

The house was designed for middle-class Americans, so instead of stained-glass windows that Wright used in his wealthy clients’ homes, he used wood for his shapes and light.

Wright believed that room size and cost should be given over to the living areas so the upstairs bedrooms tend to be smaller than what we are used to today.

Upstairs Guest Room

The present homeowner encourages guests to cook in the kitchen.  Above the cupboard, there are some great reminders of the past on display.  And to keep the experience more authentic, there is no microwave.  We made coffee in a Chemex carafe. 

Bernard Schwartz was a devoted fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, but Mrs. Schwartz – not so much.  She made two requests of Wright for a linen closet in one of the bathrooms, and he declined both times to put one in the plan.  In the third request, Mrs. Schwartz reminded Wright that he was working for her, and she got the closet.  However, Wright located the closet in such a place that the bathroom door hit the toilet whenever it was opened, plus the door could only be opened half-way.  Don’t mess with this architect.

I enjoy lighthouses, and there’s usually some to visit if you’re around the Great Lakes.

The 1886 Two Rivers Lighthouse is now on display at the local Fishing Village & Museum.  There’s also ships and sculpture that reinforce the area’s maritime heritage.

Two Rivers Lighthouse

Inside Point Beach State Forest, about six miles away, is the Rawley Point Lighthouse.  It dates from 1894.  The steel tower rises 113 feet above the lake to make it the tallest lighthouse on the Wisconsin Shore. The keeper’s house is now a privately owned residence, but the lighthouse itself is still operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Rawley Point Lighthouse

The Lake Michigan beach in front of the lighthouse is excellent for walking.

Over in Manitowoc, the Breakwater Lighthouse stands at the end of a long pier that you can walk out to.  The building is closed but take the stairs up to the next level and enjoy the view.  

Breakwater Lighthouse

Nearby, the S.S. Badger car ferry was preparing to leave at 2:00 p.m.  The Badger, which began service in 1953, is the last coal-burning passenger ship in operation in the U.S.  It crosses Lake Michigan in a four-hour trip and docks at Ludington, Michigan.  The mighty ship can accommodate 600 passengers and 180 vehicles.

S.S. Badger

After all the lighthouses and ship viewing, we stopped at Beerntsen’s Confectionary in downtown Manitowoc.  They’ve been in business since 1932, and inside, it’s a delightful step back in time with the walnut booths and decorative arches. Beerntsen’s has candy, ice cream, and light lunches.  We tried something in all three categories. The egg salad sandwiches were delicious, and we followed that with ice cream sundaes and candy to go.

It was a memorable weekend to stay in a Frank Lloyd Wright home, and I’m looking forward to returning to the Two Rivers area.  There’s a lot to explore on the shores of Lake Michigan.  

Stillwater, Minnesota

On a recent visit to the Twin Cities, we took a day trip to the historic town of Stillwater.  It’s located just thirty minutes east of St. Paul, right on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. 

Stillwater claims the title of the birthplace of Minnesota because the first territorial convention to establish Minnesota as a state was held near the town center. Many of the historic buildings have been preserved, and Main Street is listed on the National Register.

Stillwater sits on the banks of the beautiful St. Croix River. You can board any number of tour boats for some sightseeing from the water, or stay on land and take a trolley ride to view the historic homes.

With son and daughter-in-law and new granddaughter along, we explored the streets and shops on foot.  It was Christmas in July when we stepped into the Kathe Wohlfahrt store. I had been in these stores in Germany and learned that this was the only one in North America.  It was a small shop but had all the familiar glass and wooden Christmas items.  I did some early holiday shopping.

An icon in the community is an historic lift bridge that spans the river. The bridge was completed in 1931, and in a neighborly fashion, the cost was split between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Today the Stillwater Bridge is pedestrian/bicycle rider only. 

Stillwater Lift Bridge
Stillwater Bridge with the mid-section raised

The bridge is somewhat unique in that the midsection raises vertically when a tall boat needs to pass underneath.  According to the information board posted nearby, the boat captain approaches and signals to the lift bridge operator, who is stationed in a little building on the bridge, to raise up the middle section.  Horns honk, lights flash, and gates in front of the moving part close off the area.  After the boat passes, the raised section slowly comes back down, the gates open, and everyone is free to continue.  Once you get across the bridge, you’re in Wisconsin!

There’s plenty of restaurants to enjoy in town, and we chose the Dock Café with its outdoor patio.  The restaurant sits next to the St. Croix so we could take in all the activity on the river while we were eating lunch.  The Dock offers a great view of the lift bridge, too.

Patio at the Deck Cafe

I would highly recommend a visit to Stillwater.  Being from Illinois, it reminded me a lot of Galena, one of my favorite towns in our state.  I’m looking forward to returning to Stillwater at Christmas time – Midwest Living magazine named it a Magical Midwest Main Street during the holidays.