Old World Wisconsin

May 2009


Old World Wisconsin Historic Site is the antithesis of a frenzied theme park. The world's largest museum dedicated to the history of rural life is nestled just south of the village of Eagle, Wisconsin. The site of 600 acres provides a full day of relaxed strolling; with more than 60 structures collected from around the state during the 1970s, carefully dismantled, and then reconstructed on site.


Upon arrival, a tree-canopied winding road and a parking area amid tall forest pines set the stage for a relaxing day. Calm excitement gently sets in upon entrance to the visitorís center. A short walk leads to the first farm home. Stepping in, oneís senses are piqued by natural sights, smells, and sounds. View the naturally-lit tableau of quietly furnished rooms, smell the slow-burning wood fire, hear the rhythmic sound of kitchen tinkerings and a chorus of birds, horses, and cows through wide open windows. After leisurely conversing with a costumed interpreter, saunter to the next homestead or ride the tram to the next settlement area. One begins to breathe easier and feel at ease as life becomes a promise again.


Visiting the farm homes is a small part of the experience. OWW features settlement areas from different ethnic groups including African-American, Danish, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Polish, and Yankee. The 1870s Crossroads Village features a Welsh shopkeeper, Irish laundress, Norwegian wagon maker and Bohemian shoemaker. The stagecoach inn and blacksmith are nearby. A visit to the one-room schoolhouse reminds us that even adults have lots to learn. Costumed teachers challenge visitors with questions about Wisconsin history that are fun and enlightening.


To top it off, OWW is situated within the Kettle Moraine Forest. One may walk or tram between homesteads along groomed paths or choose to hike through the forest to the next settlement. Hiking through the pine forest complemented with wildflower carpeted prairies brings a level of authenticity impossible when visiting typical museums. The kettle moraine, formed by glacial recession, features ponds, exquisite prairies, and pine and hardwood forests.


At the end of the day, gift shop souvenirs are not necessary; your sojourn into the past will stay with you, lowering your stress level, opening your eyes again to natureís beauty, and reminding you that calmness can rule your days.


Opening May 1, OWW offers artisan craft classes in blacksmithing, tatting, spinning, primitive rug hooking, Laura Ingalls Wilder quilting, wool rug braiding, dutch oven cooking, and wood stove cooking. Special events this season include Edgar Alan Poe Halloween, vintage base ball, a wildflower walk, bird walks, and in August, an evening celebration of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincolnís birth featuring the famous 1st Brigade Band along with visit from Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln.