Kewanee, Illinois – Woodland Palace

Fred Francis
Fred Francis


Just outside Kewanee, Illinois is a unique Victorian house called Woodland Palace.  It was built in 1889 by an eccentric guy named Fred Francis.  He was something of a Renaissance man, in a Kewanee-sort-of-way.  Among his talents were mathematics, engineering, poetry, painting, and woodcarving.


Kewanee is about thirty miles north of Peoria.  Fred was born in that area on January 21, 1856.  He was an excellent student and graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Fred met and married a widow named Jeanie Crowfoot in 1890.  It was surely a case of opposites attracting –  he was a vegetarian, she liked meat; he was an atheist, she was a devout Christian; he was a practicing nudist, she dressed in prim, Victorian style.  But despite their obvious differences, they lived together for over thirty years, until Jeanie died of tuberculosis in 1921.

The home they shared was built by Fred using brick, stone, and native wood.  It’s situated on sixty acres of wooded land.   An interesting feature of the house is a dome that gives the building its “Woodland Palace” look.

Fred used his mechanical engineering skills to great effect throughout the house.  He invented a way to air cool the rooms through a series of fans, have doors and windows that opened automatically, and enjoyed clean, running water – all this without the benefit of electricity. (He powered things by a windmill.)

When you enter inside, you’ll see a home that’s a rare combination of unusual, yet tasteful.  The materials used throughout are high-end, and the craftsmanship is exceptional.

My favorite room is the Coach Room in the upper level of the house.  It was built to resemble a railroad coach of the late 1800s.  Each side of the “coach” had a bedroom.


Fred didn’t own a car, but he had a bicycle for transportation.  He modified the front so Jeanie could ride with him.  He took her nearly five miles to church and waited patiently outside until the services were over.

Fred & Wife bike
Photo property of Woodland Palace


In later years, after Jeanie died, Fred enjoyed visitors to his land for picnics and nature walks, but he had his rules.  The welcome/code-of-conduct sign he posted in the front yard is still there:



“Grounds are free for all who do right and all such are welcome.  Those who throw paper and rubbish on the ground, meddle with property, or let kids do so, are hereby cordially invited to stay away.   Fred Francis”

Fred passed away in 1926 and bequeathed his property to the City of Kewanee.  Today it is operated as Francis Park and Woodland Palace, where you can picnic, camp, hike and tour Fred’s beloved home.

Bonus Stop:

Ryan Barn

Not far from Francis Park is the Ryan Round Barn.  It’s the largest round barn in Illinois, measuring 80 feet tall and 85 feet in diameter.  Dr. Laurence Ryan had it built in 1910.  He was a brain surgeon with an international reputation in that field.  He went to medical school at Chicago’s Loyola University in addition to studying in Vienna and Berlin. But he also had an interest in farming, having grown up in the Kewanee area.


Round barns were popular from the late 1800s to the 1920s.  They withstood high winds better than rectangular structures.  (No corners for the wind to catch on and do damage.)  This type of barn was also efficient for housing cattle and horses.


One of the most striking features of the barn is the ceiling. The silo in the middle held about 400 tons of corn.

In the lower level, Dr. Ryan added some modern conveniences to his barn including a duel track and trolley system to deliver feed and remove waste.


Today the barn is open for tours and houses a museum of early agricultural implements.  You’ll want to check the website for open times at:

Kewanee Murals

In the summer of 2013, a group of artists and sign painters known as the Walldogs arrived in Kewanee and painted murals at fifteen different locations in the downtown area.  Various organizations and businesses sponsored the murals.  The scenes highlight Kewanee’s past, present, and future.  The sampling below shows some of the Walldogs’ beautiful murals.




Geneva, Illinois


Late this summer, it was Cruzn with girlfriends Missy, Cele, and Kathy O. in the Fox River town of Geneva, Illinois about 36 miles west of Chicago.  We decided to check out the Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese Garden that sit amongst 235 acres of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.  It’s an inviting area with paths for walking and bicycling, along with the historic sites.

Fabyan Villa Museum
George Fabyan


It all began around 1905 when millionaire George Fabyan and his wife, Nelle, bought a farmhouse and ten acres of land on the west bank of the Fox River.  Over time they purchased more surrounding land until they had nearly 300 acres.  They named their estate Riverbank.  It featured a Japanese garden, private zoo, Roman-style swimming pool, greenhouse, gardens, wind mill, and a lighthouse.

In 1907, George and Nelle hired Frank Lloyd Wright to remodel their 1800s farmhouse.  Wright added a south wing and other characteristic elements to make it a Prairie-style house.  Today the home showcases the Fabyans’ collections of natural history and animal specimens, sculptures, and history and photos about the couple and their life.

George Fabyan was interested in research and built a private laboratory for various studies.  He is credited with being a pioneer in the field of modern cryptography – his findings were helpful during World War I in breaking codes used by the Germans.


Located a short distance from the house is a working windmill.  In 1914, the Fabyans purchased this windmill from a farm in nearby Elmhurst and had it re-constructed on their property. It was used to grind grain for the surrounding community during war-rationing.  The windmill was originally built in 1851.




On the way to the windmill you also see other structures that the Fabyans had built, including a random column with an eagle at the top and a lighthouse.


The Japanese Garden was designed for the Fabyans by Taro Otsuka, a well-known landscape architect in the Chicago area.  This type of garden was fashionable among the wealthy in the early 1900s.  Some of the plantings seen today can be traced back to 1910 when the garden was originally installed.




George and Nelle Fabyan passed away in the 1930s.  The Forest Preserve District of Kane County then bought 235 acres of the Riverbank estate and opened it to the public.

After a visit to the Fabyan Villa, be sure to stop in downtown Geneva at Third Street for some more local history, lunch and shopping.  The Geneva History Museum is a fine facility to learn about the community and the importance of the Fox River.

Geneva History Museum

For a hidden treasure, walk across the street to the Kane County Courthouse and take a look at the murals on the second floor.  They were painted in the early 1900s by Aurora artist Edward Holslag and depict scenes of early Kane County life.


My favorite place to shop in Geneva is the Little Traveler at the corner of Third and Fulton Streets.  I’ve enjoyed going there for years with family and friends.  It’s a Victorian era Italianate house that’s been added on to over the years and now contains 36 rooms.  There’s everything from clothing to home décor, gourmet foods and local wines, and a tea shop for lunch.


The blocks around the Little Traveler have lots of historic homes and other buildings of note.  For a small fee, the Geneva History Museum sells self-guided walking tour maps so you can stroll around the area and appreciate all the architecture.

Geneva has a lot to offer, and I would certainly agree with their description – “this charming hamlet, nestled on the banks of the Fox River, is truly a picture postcard.”  It’s worth your time to visit.






New Glarus, Wisconsin

If you’re among the population today who enjoys craft beers, you’ll want to head to New Glarus, Wisconsin and the New Glarus Brewing Company.

New Glarus Brewing Company

The craft beer industry in the United States has grown by leaps and bounds in the last several years.  (In 2009 there were 1,596 breweries; in 2016 the number was up to 5,234.)  New Glarus Brewing Company has managed to rise to the top in the Midwest.  Their Spotted Cow farmhouse ale has a strong following, along with favorites Two Women and Moon Man.

(Even though I’m not a beer drinker, I enjoy the names that breweries choose for their various beers.  I also admire the dedication, hard work, and the pride that brewers take in their finished product.)

New Glarus Brewing Company was established in 1993, so owners Deborah and Daniel Carey have been in the business for awhile.  Their success allowed them to build a new facility in 2008.  It’s located on a wooded hilltop at the edge of town.  The buildings have a Swiss-inspired look about them to fit in with the town’s heritage.  Inside the main building, it’s state-of-the-art and sparkling clean.  Visitors on self-guided tours stroll the corridors with a brew in hand.  It’s a happy place – everyone is in a good mood and having fun.


The beer garden is especially nice.  Everywhere on the grounds are picnic tables and seating to enjoy a beer in the Wisconsin outdoors.  You also get a commanding view of New Glarus and the farm land below.



“Only in Wisconsin” is a tag line for the New Glarus Brewing Company.  That’s because their product is sold exclusively in Wisconsin.  It somehow adds to the appeal for Spotted Cow and the companies’ other varieties.  You’ll see customers loading up their SUVs with cases of beer to take home across state lines.  We went back to Illinois with our fair share, including the seasonal Staghorn Octoberfest.

Back down in the valley and the town of New Glarus, you’ll discover a quaint Swiss heritage village of 2,200 residents.  New Glarus was settled in 1845 by immigrants from the alpine community of Glarus, Switzerland.  They had primarily worked in the textile industry in Switzerland and didn’t know much about farming when they arrived in America.  It was learn-as-you-go for them, but pretty soon they were raising Brown Swiss cows, making cheese, and growing wheat.


Cheese and cows are still popular today in New Glaus.  You’ll see painted fiberglass cows stationed throughout the community.  The buildings in town also have an alpine look, much like Frankenmuth, Michigan that I wrote about in a post last month.

The retail area of town is small, but there’s several interesting shops.  Stop in at the Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus for some excellent Wisconsin cheese.  The butterkase was my favorite.


And be sure to check out Blumenladen, a home décor and flower shop.  I would also highly recommend Hide & Hutch.  They have a great inventory of clothing and unique items for your home.

Hide & Hutch

Standing tall over the center of town is the Swiss United Church of Christ.  It dates from 1900.  All services were conducted in German until 1924.  In front of the church is a monument honoring the original 27 families of Swiss settlers.




A good place to try Swiss cuisine is Glarner Stube.  It has an Old World feel and the food is delicious.  Our waitress encouraged us to try a traditional side dish called rosti – hash browns with melted cheese and onions inside.  You won’t be disappointed.


An unexpected treat in the downtown area was a demonstration of alphorns.  The sound from these unusual instruments was beautiful.  The two men who were playing instantly drew a crowd around them – everyone had their cell phones in hand, recording the music or taking a photo.


For lodging, we stayed at the Chalet Landhaus Inn.  The building fits in nicely with the Swiss theme, and you can walk to the downtown area.  They have a couple of the painted cows on their grounds, too.



To learn more of New Glarus’ history, visit the Swiss Historical Village and Museum.  The park-like setting features fourteen historical buildings that showcase the town’s early years.  The grounds and buildings are well-maintained and arranged in a circle, so it’s easy to take a self-guided tour.





Shop – Sip – Savor – Stay – Play!  New Glarus is an exceptional place to visit.










Dubuque, Iowa

Dubuque is a very old river town in the Midwest – in fact, it’s the oldest city in Iowa.  Located on the mighty Mississippi River, on the eastern side of the state, the community was first settled in 1785 by a French Canadian named Julien Dubuque.


Today the Port of Dubuque is the center for river activity.  The area was revitalized a few years ago and offers a variety of things to do.  There’s a top-notch museum and aquarium, riverboat rides, and a paved walkway.




The views along the Mississippi Riverwalk are wonderful with an occasional barge or river boat passing by, making it a very enjoyable experience.  There’s also various pieces of artwork along the path in an exhibit called Art on the River.  These sculptures are another compliment to the walk.



At the north end of the Riverwalk is Stone Cliff Winery.  You can do some wine tasting there, but it’s also an excellent place to have lunch.  The winery is located in the historic Star Brewery building.  You’ll want to take time and look at the interesting displays about the building’s past as a brewery.




A great little piece of history near the brewery is the Shot Tower.  It dates from 1856 and is one of the last remaining structures of its type in the U.S.  What’s a Shot Tower, I wondered?  According to sources, they were used to make ammunition for muskets.  Molten lead was hoisted to the top of the tower and poured through a grate.  The droplets that fell from the grate were relatively uniform in size, and the fall provided enough time for the liquid-metal droplet to form into a sphere before landing in water below.  The water cooled the lead to its solid state while keeping the round shape. The shot was then sorted and packed.  In recent years, the Dubuque Shot Tower became part of the river front and its restoration plans.

A remarkable collection of Tiffany windows can be seen at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on Main Street.  The church is open during the week, and guides stationed in the sanctuary are welcoming and informative.


At a distance, the light shining through the Tiffany windows makes the colors look rich and velvet-like.  You can also walk right up to the windows and appreciate Tiffany’s work up close.



The window pictured on the left, titled The Good Shepard, had been exhibited in a chapel Louis Tiffany designed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  Later, after the Exposition closed, the family of Judge D.N. Cooley from Dubuque purchased the window for the church.  It was installed during the original construction of 1896.

In addition to the Tiffany windows, visitors can see ornate brass work at the altar and a lovely frieze above the choir loft.  The frieze is a replica of the “Singing Children” designed for the Cathedral of Florence, Italy.


The church building itself is worthy of Tiffany windows.  It’s a splendid example of Romanesque architecture with its heavy stone walls and round arches.  Upon completion, the congregation held a Feast of Dedication service in May of 1897.


While you’re in the downtown area, be sure to visit Cable Car Square and ride the Fourth Street Elevator.  It’s been described as the world’s steepest, shortest scenic railway.  Back in 1882, local businessman J.K. Graves was looking for a quicker way to get from his bank job at the bottom of the bluffs to the top where he lived.  As it was, the trip took half an hour in his horse and buggy to go around the bluff and get from top to bottom or vice versa.  Mr. Graves received permission from the City to build an incline railway like he had seen in Europe.  A local engineer drew up a design, and the single cable car system was built.


Mr. Grave’s new work-day routine had the gardener letting him up or down the bluff in his cable car as needed, rather than the half-hour buggy ride.  Soon his neighbors were meeting him at the elevator and asking for a ride, too.  He decided to open the railway to the public and charged five cents a person.

After a series of events, including fires, the Fenelon Elevator Company was formed in 1893.  Ten stockholders now owned the system.  They installed a new motor to run the elevator and replaced the ropes that held the car with steel cables. Most importantly, they made the track three rails with a fourth bypass in the middle to allow for the operation of two cars.  A second story was also added to the operator’s house so neighborhood men could smoke and play cards there without their wives bothering them.  Hmm . . .


At the top of the elevator you’ll find a lookout area and some great views of the downtown business district and the Mississippi River. (The building with the gold dome is the 1891 Dubuque County Courthouse.)

It only costs $1.50 to ride the elevator one way.  If you have a bicycle with you, it’s $2.00.  There’s service eight months of the year, from April 1st through November 30th.


Dubuque offers an inviting blend of nature, history, architecture, and culture. It’s conveniently situated in the southwest corner of what is known as the Tri-State area.  Illinois and Wisconsin are both just a few miles away. (Galena, Illinois is an easy 17-mile drive.)  You’ll want to plan a visit soon!



Frankenmuth, Michigan


In Frankenmuth, Michigan, they channel their German heritage to great advantage.  The community embraced its roots and architecturally transformed itself to look like a Bavarian village.  This started in the 1950s in a move to increase tourism.  The result today is a town with the look and feel of a theme park, and it’s been successful.  Frankenmuth now has over three million visitors annually.


To learn some background about the area, we started our visit at the Frankenmuth Historical Museum.  It’s a small museum, but very nicely done.  We left with a good understanding of the German immigration to Michigan.

The town’s original settlers came from Mittelfranken in the Franconia area of Germany (south-central part of the country).  They arrived in the United States in August 1845, and named their colony Frankenmuth by combining the name of their home region, Franconia, with mut, the German word for courage.  It was to be an exclusively German Lutheran area, loyal to the Mother Country, and speaking the German language

To make a living, many of the immigrants became farmers while others, who were businessmen and craftsmen in Germany, continued on with their same trades in flour, lumber, and woolen mills.  They also produced cheese and sausage, and of course, beer.  Today many of these products still drive the local economy.



Just down the street from the museum is the Bavarian Inn with its shops and restaurants.   There’s a fine bakery in the lower level.

Be sure to catch one of the Glockenspiel shows in the bell tower on the south side of the building.  Four times a day the thirty-five bell Glockenspiel plays German and American music.  That’s followed by a performance of the Pied Piper with wooden figures on a track and stage, like a giant cuckoo clock.


While you’re at the Bavarian Inn, you can eat some hearty German fare at one of their three restaurants.



Or across the street is the well-known Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth.  They can seat 1500 people and offer all-you-can-eat family style chicken.


In that neighborhood you’ll also find the Holtz Brucke (“wooden bridge” in German).  It’s a 239-foot covered bridge that spans the Cass River.  As expected, its architecture has a Bavarian twist. It’s relatively new as covered bridges go; the dedication ceremony was held in September 1980.  You can drive or bicycle through or walk across on the pedestrian walkways on either side.



If you like festivals, you may want to visit during the annual Oktoberfest.  In 1996, Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest became the first to operate with the blessing of the original Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.  And for the first time in history, the famous Hofbrauhaus brewery in Munich exported their beer to the United States.  Because of that connection, Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest was moved to September to coincide with the opening of the Munich event.  (In 2017, the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest will be held September 14-17th in Heritage Park.)

After the fall events, it’s time to think about Christmas.  A popular business in town is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.  It’s considered the world’s largest Christmas store, and you know there’s serious square footage when they hand you a map as you walk in.  The building is the size of five and a half football fields.  Over 50,000 items fill the aisles, but ornaments are displayed in categories like santas, snowmen, cats, etc., so it’s actually fairly easy to find something.

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland


St. Lorenz Lutheran Church is another reminder of the German heritage in Frankenmuth.  This beautiful, historic church was constructed in 1880, and has a soaring, 167-foot spire.  Tours are available during the week or attend a Sunday service.  On the second Sunday of each month, a service is offered in the German language.

The Frankenmuth motto says: Built on Tradition, Made for Memories.   You’ll enjoy visiting “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.”





The Lincoln Highway

Summer is the favorite time for road trips, and decades ago, the Lincoln Highway was the great American driving adventure.  It was the first coast-to-coast route across the country, spanning from New York City to San Francisco.


It started back in 1912 when a businessman named Carl Fisher, who was involved in the automotive industry, had the grand idea to map out a highway across the nation.  He gathered together his fellow industrialists and they proposed “a continuous improved highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, open to lawful traffic of all description, without toll charges, and to be a lasting memorial to Abraham Lincoln.”

While earlier names such as “The Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway” and “The Ocean-to-Ocean Highway” were considered, it was eventually named the Lincoln Highway in memory of our sixteenth president.  Promoters thought a patriotic slant would offer more appeal to the general public.

An association was formed, and by September of 1913, the route was made public.  It passed through 13 states and covered 3,389 miles.


It should be noted that the Lincoln Highway was not a specific road building project – it was a marketing project.  It used signs and guide books to get people out on the road where they would spend money.   Travelers could expect to drive on wagon trails, around fences, and through small towns on Main Streets.  Fisher and his fellow promoters envisioned the automobile and highways changing Americans and their lives.  It did.

1928 Lincoln Highway Markers

By the mid 1920s, named roads such as the Lincoln Highway were converted to numbered highways.  Route 66 was established in 1926 and became one of the most famous roads in American history.  The Lincoln Highway, affectionately known as the “Main Street Across America.,” began to fade away.  The last big event associated with the Lincoln Highway was held in September 1928.  At that time, Boy Scouts across the nation placed nearly 3,000 markers at sites along the route.

A renewed interest in the Lincoln Highway occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  The Lincoln Highway Association was revived and plans were made to celebrate the 100th Anniversary in 2013.  A new generation of travelers who were tired of the generic interstate routes were re-discovering the small town charms of the Lincoln Highway.

There are excellent history lessons on this road.  One example is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where the highway takes you right through the heart of the downtown area.  A few blocks away is Soldiers’ National Cemetery; there President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address in November 1863.

Lincoln Highway Marker in downtown Gettysburg, PA
Soldiers’ Cemetery & Gettysburg address site

The Lincoln Highway also has some lighter stops along the way.  Fort Cody Trading Post in North Platte, Nebraska, is full of road kitsch and other souvenirs.


And standing tall in the stockade area of the fort is Muffler Man.  He’s been made over to honor Chief Crazy Horse.



It’s fitting that Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, has many noteworthy sites.

In Geneva you’ll find a vintage gas station that has been re-purposed into a bank.  The business was originally a Pure Oil Station, built in 1937 in the English Cottage style.   Notice the clever way the former service bays have been changed over to drive-up windows.



The Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition decided to paint murals and install gazebos along their 179 miles of the Lincoln Highway.  There are a total of thirty-five murals and sixteen gazebos, each telling a specific story about the highway.  You can visit the Illinois Lincoln Highway website to get a complete list.  The mural below is located on a building at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Seventh Street in DeKalb.


Although the Lincoln Highway wasn’t about building roads per se, the Lincoln Highway Association secured donations to fund “seedling miles.”  They went into a community and put down a mile of concrete road.   Promoters wanted to show the public the advantages of good roads and to rally support for government sponsored or private paving beyond that seedling mile.

Gazebo in Malta, Illinois

In 1914, the very first seedling mile was laid in Malta, Illinois, a small town just west of DeKalb.  Today there is a gazebo at Kishwaukee Community College to tell the story of this project.

After the Lincoln Highway Association was re-activated in 1992, a site in Franklin Grove was designated the National Headquarters in 1996.  Interestingly enough, this former dry goods store was built in 1860 by Harry Lincoln, a distant cousin of the president.

Lincoln Highway National Headquarters, Franklin Grove, Illinois

Another unique road stop is De Immigrant Windmill and Cultural Center in Fulton.  It sits on the banks of the Mississippi River and marks the last Lincoln Highway community in Illinois before crossing over into Iowa.  The windmill was built in the Netherlands , taken apart, and re-assembled in Fulton.  Dedication ceremonies were held in May 2000.  You can tour the site and purchase flour ground in the windmill.



Today, the Lincoln Highway still allows travelers an opportunity to see interesting landscape and experience history.  A detour off the interstate promises to be worth the extra time!

Mackinac Island, Michigan


Mackinac Island, Michigan, located in Lake Huron between the state’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas,  has the flavor of a 19th-century seaside resort.  There’s elegant Victorian mansions, horses and carriages, and plenty of beautiful lake views.

Adding to that old-timey feeling is the lack of modern transportation.  Cars have been banned from the island since 1896.  To get around, visitors and residents walk, or ride bikes or carriages.


Most people arrive on Mackinac Island by ferry.  We took Shepler’s Ferry, and they run like a well-oiled machine, transporting people, luggage, and bicycles from the mainland to the island.  It’s about a twenty-minute ride.


As you approach the island, you’ll see the Round Island Lighthouse, completed in 1895.  Though no longer used, it’s a great historic icon to photograph.

The tourist season runs about six months, from May through October.  I was surprised to learn that over 500 permanent residents stay on the island year round.  In the winter time, when the Strait is frozen, they use snowmobiles to get to the mainland.  Planes also bring in supplies via the island’s small airport.


Horses Rule


The clip-clopping of horses’ hooves is a familiar sound on the island.  During the tourist season there’s about 500 horses brought from the mainland to pull wagons and carriages and haul all the stuff needed for day-to-day island life.



Horses are paired up at the beginning of the summer and stay with their partner throughout the season.  Some of the horse names I heard were May & June and Queenie & Dolly.


They can leave a bit of a mess behind on the streets, but crews come along and keep things fairly tidy.  Just watch your step when you’re out biking or walking.

At the end of October the horses are led down to the dock where they are loaded on a ferry.  Many of horses stay in Michigan; others are dispersed to Minnesota and some as far away as Florida.  They’ll be back next spring.




For something a bit faster than a slow-moving horse, you’ll find over 1400 bicycles on the island and good maps to guide you on your travels.  Rent a bike from your hotel or a rental shop.  The island is only eight miles around, and a bike is a great way to enjoy the nature and sights.


Mail and packages, usually of no particular interest, were noteworthy on Mackinac.  The post office was the most charming building of that type I had ever seen, and it was fun to notice the UPS guy delivering with a horse and wagon rather than his brown truck.




Fort Mackinac

One site you’ll want to put on your agenda is Fort Mackinac.  It was founded by the British in 1780, and later came under American control.  The initial duties of the soldiers involved protecting the lucrative fur trade. The fort was eventually discontinued as a military post and turned over to the state of Michigan in 1895.  The facility was then associated with the State Park system and still is today.


Views from the top of the fort are spectacular.  Once inside, take a look at the different fort buildings.  They’re all original structures.


At scheduled times, historical interpreters in costume give programs on the Parade Ground.  The day we were there it was a rifle firing demonstration.

You’ll also learn that the island’s name was originally Michilimackinac (Native American) and later shortened to Mackinac.  Maps show that it’s a small island, too, of just three miles long and two miles wide.

Main Street


Back down on Main Street there’s plenty of opportunities for shopping.  My favorites were Little Luxuries and Caddywampus.  And then the fudge shops. . . . .

Apparently there’s been a tradition of “candy kitchens” on Mackinac Island since the late 1800s, and this gradually evolved to fudge as the specialty. Now there’s at least fourteen different stores that sell it.  The first and most well-known is Murdick’s.

It’s been said that the local residents call tourists, “fudgies.”  So even though as a tourist I was technically in the “fudgies” category, I was feeling smug that I wasn’t even tempted to buy some.  I’ve never cared for fudge – it always seems over-sweet and gritty to me.  But on our last night, Mike wanted to try a taste.  So we stepped into Murdick’s and bought a slice.  I have to admit, their fudge is on another level.  It’s creamy-smooth, chocolaty, and just-right delicious!

Grand Hotel


The most well-known landmark associated with Mackinac Island is the Grand Hotel, opened to island visitors in 1887.  The outstanding feature is a front porch that measures 660 feet.


Grand Hotel is considered a working museum so there is a $10.00 per person fee to enter the property.  (The amount is subtracted from your dining costs if you stay for lunch.)

Despite an occasional uppity vibe about the place, the inside is worth a look around, and the grounds are lovely.


If you continue walking on the West Bluff past the Grand Hotel, you’ll see some grand summer mansions. The flowers are beautiful, too.








The home pictured above had the traditional Victorian blue porch ceiling painted with clouds.  In the days before air-conditioning, there was a lot of porch sitting in warmer months.  The sky-blue ceiling made the porch brighter, and reminded people of pleasant weather, even on gray, overcast days.




I found Mackinac Island a delightful and novel place to visit.  It’s the perfect step back in time!

Princeton, Illinois

IMG_1247Princeton, Illinois, the city where I live, has much to offer.  For a small town of 7700,   it’s chock-full of history and architecture.

The community was settled in 1832 by New Englanders (the fellow who chose the town name was from Princeton, New Jersey), and they were all about hard work, education, social justice, nice houses, and trees.   Today we’re enjoying the benefits of their efforts.

Here are some of the sites and shops to check out:

Lovejoy Homestead 905 East Peru Street

02 Lovejoy Homestead

This was once the home of Owen Lovejoy, who in the 1800s was a minister, abolitionist, Underground Railroad conductor, and U.S. Congressman.  Today it is a museum open to the public.  The United States Secretary of the Interior declared the property a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

Historic Homes Neighborhoods

Princeton is noted for its historic homes, and many of these residences can be found on Park Avenue, South Main Street, Elm Place, and Peru Street.  Along with stately homes, some of these historic neighborhoods have brick streets that were laid by hand in the early 1900s.  Stop by the Princeton Chamber of Commerce to pick up a self-guided architectural tour map.

01Justus Stevens House

16Geo Paddock Home

02Richard Skinner Home

Princeton is also a Tree City, U.S.A.  In the summer there’s lots of shade wherever you go.

Red Covered Bridge Dover Township

The Red Covered Bridge was constructed in 1863 when Princeton area residents needed a permanent bridge over Bureau Creek.  It spans nearly 145 feet and is still open to one-lane traffic.  The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.  If you’re a photographer, you’ll enjoy the photo ops here.

 07Red Covered Bridge                                                                                    

Captain Swift Bridge Rural Princeton

19Capt Swift Bridge

This covered bridge was built in 2006 and named for a Boston, Massachusetts seafaring captain who later settled in Princeton.  Though large enough to accommodate modern traffic, the structure is made entirely of wood and nearly identical in design to covered bridges built 100 years ago.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument 700 Block of South Main

01 Soldiers & Sailors


In the Courthouse Square is a monument honoring Civil War veterans.  Eight bronze plaques list a total of 3,117 veterans’ names who served in the four military branches from that time: Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Navy.  Standing on top of the granite base is Victory, the largest winged monument in the state of Illinois at fifteen feet.  The monument was dedicated on June 12, 1913 with 100 Civil War veterans in attendance.


North End/South End Historic Business Districts Main Street

Princeton’s original business district began around the Courthouse Square, but when railroad tracks were laid a mile north of this center, a second business district was created.  Both areas still exist today and feature historic storefronts along Main Street.


For unusual shopping, stop by Hoffman’s Patterns of the Past on South Main Street.  They feature hundreds of patterns of current and discontinued china and glassware along with gifts of all sorts.  Just down the street is the new Meadows on Main, a home décor and gift shop.


Beetz Me!



Beetz Me!, at the North End near the railroad tracks, is located in a unique historic building.  It was once a hardware store, and the tin ceilings, ladders and bins, and wood floors are still in place. The inventory ranges from home décor to gourmet foods and wine.

04Beetz Me interior


Princeton is the place where Tradition Meets Progress.  You’ll love this charming, historic town !



Galesburg, Illinois


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Carl Sandburg

THE fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

So reads a favorite poem by American poet Carl Sandburg.  He was born in Galesburg, Illinois on January 6, 1878 to Swedish immigrant parents, August and Clara Anderson Sandburg.

Young Carl spent his youth in Galesburg and then went on to write poetry, children’s stories, and a six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln.  The author-poet won a Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (four of the six volumes), and was awarded a second Pulitzer in 1951 for Complete Poems.

Along with a prize-winning author, Galesburg’s history includes railroads, Abraham Lincoln, and some architectural gems.  The city is just 45 minutes northwest of Peoria, Illinois.

Carl Sandburg Historic Site

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Today you can visit the modest three-room workman’s cottage where Carl Sandburg was born.  Next door is a visitor’s center with excellent displays.


Located behind the Sandburg cottage is Remembrance Rock Park, which features a pathway of stepping stones featuring short quotes from Sandburg’s poetry.  The path is called Quotation Walk.

The ashes of Sandburg and his wife, Lilian Steichen, are beneath Remembrance Rock.

Old Main, Knox College

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Old Main – The architect, Charles Ulricson, was inspired by Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace in London, England.

A must-see in a tour of Galesburg’s history is Knox College’s Old Main.  This building was constructed in 1857, and a year later was the site for the fifth Lincoln-Douglas debate.  Old Main is the only original building that remains from these 1858 debates.  It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.


October 7, 1858 was a blustery day when over 10,000 people gathered on the east side of Old Main to hear Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas debate.  The venue had been changed from a local park to the more protected area at Knox College because of the weather.  At stake was the U.S. Senate seat for Illinois.

The entrance doors on that east side of Old Main were blocked by the debate platform, so the participants had to climb through the nearby windows, prompting the self-educated Lincoln to joke with the audience: “At last I have gone through college!”


Today there are bronze plaques on the building to mark the debate site.  As we know, Lincoln lost the 1858 Senate race to Douglas after their series of seven debates.  But two years later, the men faced off again for the U.S. Presidency, and this time, Lincoln won.

Lincoln returned to Knox College during his presidential campaign and was awarded an honorary doctorate, the very first conferred by Knox.  It was also the first academic recognition of any kind for Lincoln, who attended the equivalent of about one year of school.



Inside Old Main are exhibits that show the early history of Knox College and Galesburg.  The Alumni Room features a red upholstered Victorian chair that was used by Abraham Lincoln when he was in Galesburg for the 1858 debate.

You can actually sit in the chair, and join the list of others who have taken a seat, including former President Barack Obama.


Central Congregational Church

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This grand church was completed in 1898.  It was built with sandstone from Michigan and features several beautiful rose windows.  It’s located on the site of the Old First Church – founded by the original settlers who came to Galesburg with George Washington Gale to start a religious community and college. These pioneers were strong abolitionists.

Knox County Courthouse


Galesburg is the county seat, and their handsome courthouse dates back to 1886.  On the lawn is a statue dedicated to Mother Bickerdyke, who helped wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War.


The railroad arrived in Galesburg in 1854. Today the city has one of the largest classification yards (where they separate railway cars on to one of several tracks) with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.  Over 160 trains a day pass through the town.


To celebrate all that railroad importance, there’s a railroad museum, Railroad Days, and a newly renovated Amtrak station.

Seminary Street


Located downtown is the Seminary Street Historic District.  Its buildings have been restored and now house quaint shops, restaurants, and my favorite, Uncle Billy’s Bakery.  There you’ll find homemade breads, cookies, scones, and muffins.


This place should be worthy of a visit!



Experience Galesburg, the visitor’s guide says, and enjoy your stay.  You will!




Dayton, Ohio


I enjoyed reading David McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers and learning more about Orville and Wilbur Wright.  They were, of course, the two men who gave us powered flight.

A couple of years ago we traveled to Dayton, Ohio to learn more about aviation.  It’s the home town of the Wright brothers as well as the site for the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The museum occupies four hangars at Wright Patterson Air Force base.  There’s a fascinating assortment of aircraft on display, ranging from early flyers to spacecraft .  As you walk through the galleries, you literally see the history of aviation.

Wright bicycle

The Early Years area features an interesting exhibit on the Wright brothers.  They started out manufacturing their own line of bicycles and running a repair shop before they got more serious about flight.  You can see where the concept of a bicycle-type chain drive carried over to their early flyers.

Replica of an early Wright flyer

Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903.  The machine was damaged beyond repair at the end of that day, but certain parts of it were saved.  A display case in the museum holds a piece of wing canvas from that original 1903 flyer.

Memphis Belle

On Fridays the museum offers Behind the Scenes Tours.  You’re shuttled by bus to hangars about a mile away from the museum and given a tour of their restoration area.  The project everyone wants to see is the Memphis Belle.  This B-17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous aircraft in history.  It was the first bomber to complete twenty-five missions over Europe and return to the United States.  The aircraft has been the subject of a couple of movies and a documentary.

Robert Morgan was the pilot of the Memphis Belle.  He named the aircraft for his girlfriend, Margaret Polk, from Memphis, Tennessee.  The romance didn’t last, but the plane did.

After thirteen years of restoration, the Memphis Belle is scheduled to go on display May 17, 2018.  It will be featured in the WW II Gallery.  Below are some photos in the work area.





Another place you may want to visit in Dayton is the 1841 Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum.  It’s located on 200 acres of rolling hills, and is known for its trees and plants as well as the persons who are buried there.

Woodland Cemetery Office building

The cemetery’s chapel, entrance gate, and office building, completed in 1899, are on the National Register of Historic Places.  They were built in the Romanesque style of architecture that was popular at the time.


Inside the chapel there’s a beautiful Tiffany window.

With a tour map, “The Wonders of Woodland Guide to Interesting Trees & Monuments,” you can drive or walk to the various points of interest.

Wright family burial site

One of the most visited gravesites is that of Orville and Wilbur Wright.  Other noted persons buried in Woodland Cemetery are columnist Erma Bombeck, George Huffman (Huffy bikes), and George Mead (Mead Paper Co.)

George Huffman monument (Huffy bikes)

The highest elevation in Dayton can be found at Lookout Point, on the north side of the cemetery.  There’s a great view of the downtown area from that hilltop.


And also downtown – the 150-year-old Victoria Theater, River Scape Metro Park, and the Wright Cycle Company Complex.  It’s a city of aviation history and more!