Some houses hold fascinating stories. Their original residents are long gone but these houses still have amazing stories to share – if you take time to listen. Some of these houses are impossible to miss – others could practically blend into the neighborhood. But they all have a fascinating past. Here’s a guide to some of Wisconsin’s most intriguing old homes.
Growing Paines Paine Art Center and Gardens, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Lumber baron Nathan Paine and his wife, Jessie Kimberly Paine wanted a house that would make a statement – and reflect their love of rural England. They had a mansion built in the style of an English manor, but their plans to finish construction and move in were stalled by the Great Depression. The Paines never moved into the mansion of their dreams. Instead, they finished the estate in the 1940s and created a nonprofit to make the property open to the public. Today the Paine Art Center and Gardens is home to art exhibits, beautiful gardens and special public events.
A Family Circus Engford House, Plover, Wisconsin
Heritage Park in Plover is home to a home that once belonged to the stars of the show. Generations of the Engford Family amused and amazed the public with their high-flying circus performances and this house is where they relaxed after a long weekend on the trapeze. The house was built in 1850 and originally was the home of an attorney, but circus performers moved in 1923 and they stayed for decades. The house was moved to Heritage Park in 2000 and today houses artifacts of its connection to a rich circus past.
House of learning Teacherage, Ladysmith, WI Today there are riding lawn mowers with more spacious accommodations than this home. What kind of place is this? It’s a “teacherage,” a cabin built in 1915 to house the teacher who ran the Wilson State Grade School, in the town of Willard. It houses such items as a wringer-washer and a rug loom, implements that a teacher could pass the time with if she had any energy left after teaching eight grade levels. These were different times for students, and teachers. The teacherage was last used in 1937. It was moved to the Rusk County Historical Society Museum grounds in 1989 and is now open to the public.
Eight walled wonders There are some upsides- and some downsides- to a house with this many sides. But whether you feel an 8-sided house makes sense or is senseless, you’ll probably find this house fascinating. The Palmer Gullickson House is located in West Salem and it today houses the local historical society. It was built in 1856 and was originally located on Lake Neshonoc. The octagon home is open to the public and features furnishing that date to the 1860s – and a lot of 135-degree corners.
Wisconsin is a hiker’s paradise – whether you’re deep in a city or far from civilization, you’re never far from a trail. However, some trails rise above the rest. These are trails that offer unforgettable views, a window into the state’s rich history or perhaps a chance to experience a timeless wilderness. You can truly lose yourself on these trails – just don’t get lost!
Kettle Moraine Northern Unit North of West Bend, you’ll find a treasure- the Kettle Moraine State Forest. This 30,000-acre natural area stretches 30 miles across Sheboygan, Fond du Lac and Washington Counties. It’s filled with beautiful hiking options that traverse this glacial terrain, but there’s one trail that is a must-visit. The National Ice Age Scenic Trail spans the full length of the park. Look for the signs that feature an image of a mammoth and start your hiking adventure.
Great River State Trail This 24-mile trail follows the route of the historic Chicago-Northwestern railroad line. The 24-mile trail travels through prairies and backwaters of the upper Mississippi. It’s a flat trail with a crushed limestone surface – ideal for walking, running and bicycling. The Great River Trail can be a launch point for other adventures. It passes near the Great River Trail Prairie and the Midway Railroad Prairie and it connects to the LaCrosse River Trail.
Pheasant Branch Conservancy On the north side of Middleton you’ll find a wonderfully-preserved natural area- the Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Trails here wind through prairies, meadows and forests and past ancient Indian mounds. Hilltop trails provide impressive views of the surrounding countryside. The Pheasant Branch is alive with wildlife and is popular with birdwatchers. Bring your binoculars along on these trails.
Flambeau Mine Trails A reclaimed mine site south of Ladysmith has been transformed into a beautiful natural area. About four miles of nature trails can be found on the Reclaimed Flambeau Mine site, located off Highway 27. Trails overlook the Flambeau River and offer views of meadows, wetlands and forests. The trails are used by hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
Vilas County Trails This northern Wisconsin county is a trail-lovers Mecca. It’s home to more than 240,000 acres of public land and has 58 trails that offer endless possibilities for hiking and biking adventure. It’s all easy to navigate thanks to the Map It Vilas County Trail App, which uses GPS to help guide trail users through the forest.