Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Blackhawk Model Railroad Club
201 N. Third St., Ste. 240, Oregon, Ill., (815) 905-2672
The 20 volunteers in the Blackhawk Model Railroad Club may be in their 50s to 70s, but the sights and sounds of model trains instantly brings back their childhood memories of model railroads.
The club was created in 1999 to provide a display of the many types of railroad layouts and equipment available on the market.
“Our mission is to display the various sizes of model trains and we want to educate people about the world of model trains,” says Bill Cummings, secretary and past president.
The club’s signature, homemade train layout, located in the Conover Square Mall, is 20 by 35 feet and includes 400 train cars. Up to eight trains can run at one time. The layout is fully landscaped with hundreds of trees and includes numerous scenes such as campgrounds, a stone quarry, a coal mine and a steel mill.
“The main layout has been built over 20 years and maintaining everything and keeping up with the parts that need fixing is the hard part,” says Cummings, who’s been in the club since 2008.
The club runs a train with a small camera in the nose, which provides a fun trackside perspective of the layout.
“You can see what it looks like as you go around the layout, and kids really love that,” Cummings says.
The club neither buys nor sells merchandise. It doesn’t charge admission, though donations are accepted.
The Blackhawk Model Railroad Club is open Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. 1-4 p.m.
Black Hawk War Monument
14109 W. Blackhawk Road, Kent, Ill., (815) 233-1357
Sitting on the site of Kellogg’s Grove in western Stephenson County is a monument that memorializes white settlers who were killed in the Black Hawk War.
Sauk Warrior Black Hawk and bands of Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois in April 1832, with the intent of taking back land the United States had claimed from their tribes in 1804.
White settlers, state militias, members of the U.S. Army, and some Indian warriors mobilized against Black Hawk’s army in several violent skirmishes, one of the last of which took place near Kellogg’s Grove in June 1832.
At the battle’s conclusion, a young Abraham Lincoln, then part of the Illinois militia stationed at Fort Dixon, helped to bury five of the men killed in the skirmish. Most soldiers were buried where they fell.
Fifty years after the Black Hawk War ended, local farmers began a campaign to collect the soldiers’ remains and bury them with a fitting monument, which they erected near the battlefield and dedicated in 1886.
The somewhat obelisk-shaped monument is 8 feet square at the base, 3 feet square at the top and 34 feet tall. It stands on one of the highest points in Illinois and can been seen from miles around. The monument is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1981, picnic areas, a shelter, a playground were added to the surrounding area, which sits on a park that’s open to the public, generally between sunrise and sunset.
408 S. Main St., Janesville, (608) 741-6400, marshallschoolapts.com
Residents of this unique apartment complex in Janesville get to visit school every day, in a sense. Their one- and two-bedroom apartments, now equipped with full kitchens along with updated plumbing and electrical, once served as learning spaces in the old Janesville High School.
The four-story, red brick building, opened in 1923, once had athletic fields to the north, in what’s now a library parking lot.
Thanks to the high number of post-World War II “baby-boom” children, a second, bigger high school was built to take on increased class sizes. Janesville Senior High School opened on Randall Avenue in 1955 and is now known as Joseph A. Craig High School.
When the high schoolers all moved to the new building in 1955, their former building began housing junior high students. In the 1970s, the building was dubbed Marshall Middle School.
The school closed for good in 1996 and three short years later was converted into a series of private apartments. Elements including bookcases and chalkboards remain right where schoolchildren once used them.
The old auditorium was renovated in 2003 and 2004 to become the Janesville Performing Arts Center, a 637-seat theater that every year invites numerous cultural arts presentations. Organization offices are located adjacent to the auditorium.
While the apartments are private, the auditorium’s box office is open to the public Mon.-Tues., Thurs. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Fri. to 1 p.m.