Did your ever wonder, as you sat through history class, what a rural landscape would look like in the 1800’s? I mean, you can visit some outdoor museums and set eyes on old structures, like churches and blacksmith shops. That being said, as you would find such buildings in many historical parks, most times they are bunched together in a rather random order. These places are definitely fun and educational, some with workers dressed in period attire. Yet, and I didn’t realize this till my latest excursion, the feel of the pioneer days is somewhat lost.
I discovered a place, with a historical appeal, that rivals any in this world. It’s focus is Wisconsin settler’s rural living. Like most parks of this manner, there is a small village on the grounds, complete with many components of old pioneer towns in Wisconsin. However, what Separates this park from most is that it sits on nearly six hundred acres of land, featuring entire farms and rural homes from nationalities such as German, Finnish, Danish, Polish and Norwegian.
This is an extremely huge draw for me. I’m a quarter German and have heard stories from my paternal grandmother. Also, and probably more largely, I’m half Polish. So, I would imagine, as it is for many from the state of Wisconsin, there is relevance and significance in these authentic buildings, having been moved and reconstructed piece by piece on the Old World Wisconsin grounds. The buildings in this museum are the actual structures settlers occupied, all coming from somewhere in Wisconsin.
We arrive at Old World Wisconsin after a pleasant drive through lush green, near Eagle Wisconsin. At the admissions desk, I am presented a map, which, considering how large this place is, is something we’ll use frequently in the future. We’re offered Museum tokens, at a cost of five dollars a token, to be used at the general store and other venues in the park. Also, for a price of $5 a head, they offer carriage rides.
We learn of events that are taking place, both today and in the future. There’s everything from Christmas time adventures to old fashioned baseball games. Today we’re late for the carriage rides but, to my delight, there is a demonstration on beer brewing and samples of the final product. The demonstration lasts until three.
Needless to say, we’re headed towards the German section of the park where, naturally, the beer is being brewed. It is two, and the German homesteads, according to our map, are a little over a twenty minute stroll. Fortunately, there are ‘Trams’ that transport park goers much more quickly. There are many stops for these motorized vehicles.
We start off on a rather sour note, as we wait for a tram for a considerable length of time. After some time, I suggest we hike to the village area, which is only a five minute jaunt, noticing that there are two tram stops on the way.
We begin our trek and discover a simplistic and tiny, but beautiful, church on the way. As we walk through town I’m tempted to stop at more establishments. My companion urges me to stay focused and head to the German section. So we walk, and almost make it to our destination without the aide of a tram. At the final stop, before we arrive, we pick it up and ride for a few seconds.
When we arrive at the demonstration, there’s a healthy gathering and the beer brewing process is open for everyone to see. Adding to the old world feel of this little area, the hops fields are just across the road. I enjoy a slight cup of brew from this process. They’re also offering bottles from a local micro brewery.
We enjoy the cup and walk to a German farm. As we look through the different homesteads, there are rustic gardens, historic breeds of livestock, interesting farmhouses and rather rudimentary barns. There are three German immigrant farms and a polish house in this section. We finish up the tour by stumbling on another small church that hardly looks the part. The history of the church, as it belonged to a fully integrated community, makes you proud to be a Wisconsinite.
We return to Crossroads Village. However, as I’m enthralled with places like a boarding house, known as the Four Mile house, my companion is worried we’ll miss the Scandinavian immigrant portion of the park. So we head off to see the homes of the Norseman.
As we trek through the Finnish, Danish and Norwegian settlements, we find one can hike to certain farms through the vast woodlands. There are trails that actually take you from the German area right to the Scandinavian without using park roads. The trails are beautiful, some being about a half mile long. I believe, as we only end up taking one trail, they could have saved some time.
Besides the trails, there is plenty at the Scandinavian homesteads. More historic breed livestock is to be seen in this area. Probably the most interesting of these are the freshly shaved sheep. There are demonstrations at the Norwegian farm on washing, and preparing wool for the spinning wheel. Also, in this area, a schoolhouse from the turn of the century stands.
We finish up our visit at Cross roads village, checking out a playhouse, blacksmith shop, general store and a few more homes. Also, the wheelmen’s club allows you to take a try at riding a high wheel trike.
This cool venue is south of Milwaukee near a town known as Eagle. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit as did my companion. It rests in what is known as Kettle Moraine State Forest. If you’re ever in southern Wisconsin, check it out.