Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
202 E. Main St., Amboy, Ill., (815) 857-2323
Do you yearn for the good old days when you could drown your sorrows in a hand-dipped malted milk shake or saunter over to the drug store for a banana split?
A trip to the Amboy Pharmacy might be just what the doctor orders. It’s the kind of place where you half expect to bump into George Baily and Mr. Gower from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The old hardwood floors, wooden booths and ceramic-tile soda fountain all whisper of simpler times and generations past. But the cool soda fountain treats are all about living in the moment.
Along with ice cream, the pharmacy sells penny candy, gifts and cards in a vintage atmosphere. And, yes, it’s also a fully functioning pharmacy.
Also in Amboy, take time to locate the brass plaque on the Long Branch Saloon denoting the site of the original Carson Pirie Scott store, opened in 1854. This department store brand originated with a business founded in Amboy by Scotch-Irish immigrants Samuel Carson and John T. Pirie. “Immigrants: We get things done.”
While you’re ambling through Lee County, be on the lookout for Burma Shave signs standing along roadways. This shaving cream company, founded in 1925, posted rhyming poems in sequential little roadway signs to boost sales.
Amboy Pharmacy Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. and, in summertime only, Sunday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Black Point Estate & Gardens
Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 248-1888, Wisconsinhistory.org
One of the “10 best home-estate tours in the Midwest” is right in our own backyard, according to Fodor’s Travel. Black Point Estate & Gardens is a 20-room Queen Anne-style “cottage” built in 1888 by Chicago beer baron Conrad Seipp as a summer retreat for his family. From a rocky bluff, Black Point overlooks Geneva Lake. The home contains an excellent collection of Victorian furniture, largely undisturbed by four generations of Seipps.
Seipp’s descendants donated Black Point to the State of Wisconsin in 2005. The state restored it and placed it into the care of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, which hosts tours May through October. Visitors reach the cottage via a Gage Marine boat tour. There are 120 steps to climb between the boat landing and the cottage. Those who can’t manage the steps may call ahead to arrange for land transportation.
Learn more at wisconsinhistory.org.
Mount Carroll Historic District
This town of fewer than 1,700 people enjoys a remarkable collection of historic architecture, with 81 buildings deemed to have particular architectural and historic significance. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It’s fun to stroll through the quaint town on foot and read the signs posted outside homes and businesses that provide a glimpse into local history. Many of the homes were built in the 1850s.
The first white settlers came to live in the Mount Carroll area in 1839 but the city didn’t incorporate until 1855.
Along with lovely pre-Civil War homes that have survived since the 1850s, the town has a beautiful downtown with an historic courthouse, public plaza and shopping district, as well as cobblestone streets. The namesake for this city and Carroll County is Maryland native Charles Carroll, the longest-lived signer of the Declaration of Independence.