Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
114 Shake Rag St., Mineral Point, Wis., (608) 987-2122, pendarvis.wisconsinhistory.org
Pendarvis offers a wealth of history. In the early 19th century, the mining of lead ore (galena) offered a promising future to many immigrants. In particular, experienced miners from Cornwall, in southwestern England, came to southwestern Wisconsin. In Mineral Point, they built small limestone homes, similar to the ones they left behind.
Nearly 100 years later, Robert Neal and Edgar Hellum saw that Mineral Point’s heritage was dangerously close to disappearing. In 1935, they began rehabilitating the limestone structures. Staying true to a Cornish tradition of naming buildings, they dubbed the first renovated house “Pendarvis,” in honor of an estate in Cornwall. Several years later, they incorporated a restaurant into the site, partly as a means to support further restoration, but also as way to embrace Cornish culture through traditional foods, such as pasties (meat and/or vegetable-filled closed pastries) and figgyhobbin (sweet raisin-filled pastries), both easily carried into the mines and eaten by hand.
In 1970, the Wisconsin Historical Society acquired the property. Pendarvis is open through the end of October and tours are led by costumed staff daily. The site is about 70 miles northwest of Rockford. If you visit, be sure to spend time roaming the high-quality shops and galleries in Mineral Point. Learn more at pendarvis.wisconsinhistory.org.
115 Chicago Ave., Freeport, Ill., (815) 233-0413, classiccinemas.com
The Lindo Theatre isn’t an ordinary movie theater. Yes, it plays new releases, but it also offers classic films and themed series, such as a recent Spencer Tracy Film Festival and the upcoming Return to the Old West series running now through December.
The homage the Lindo pays to history is fitting, since the theater itself has a history that parallels the classics. The Lindo got its name by means of a public contest, when the winner suggested a word combination of Lincoln and Douglas, “Lindo,” in a nod to the famous 1858 Freeport debate.
World-renowned Chicago architects and brothers, C.W. Rapp and George L. Rapp, designed the movie palace, which opened on April 17, 1922. It was built as a single-auditorium, single-screen theatre. The room fit 1200 seats, all on the same floor, with a stage for vaudeville acts. The Lindo has since had many owners, and was fortunate to be purchased, in 1984, by Classic Cinemas, owned by Willis and Shirley Johnson of Downers Grove, Ill. They refurbished it and divided the auditorium space.
Today, the Lindo has nine screens, with digital 3D technology in three. But don’t worry, it still retains its classic charm. In 2007, the Johnsons took care to have the classic vertical marquee remade, guided by old photographs of the original. They also removed some of the 1940s remodeling work that had covered up beautiful plasterwork and the original terrazzo floor in the front lobby.
The Lindo Theatre is one of 13 northern Illinois theaters restored by Classic Cinemas, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year with various special promotions. For a full list of theaters, special events and show times, visit classiccinemas.com.
Dowling House and Belvedere Mansion
Downtown Galena, Ill.
One stroll down Galena’s Main Street steeps visitors in a rare historical experience. Frequently referred to as “the town that time forgot,” this city went from being a booming mining town of 14,000 people to housing just a few thousand residents, once the demand for lead diminished in the mid-1800s. This caused its mostly-brick architecture to effectively stand still in time.
The Dowling House, the oldest house in Galena, was built in 1826 and served as the city’s only trading post – an important function within this bustling commercial port. At the time, Galena was the wealthiest city in Illinois and the lead mining capitol of the world. The sturdy limestone structure, built by John Dowling, housed many fur traders over the decades.
Today, Dowling House is an important historic site that offers tours all year long.
Another of Galena’s historic treasures is the Belvedere Mansion, an 1857 Italian villa-style home built by Joseph Russell Jones, an executive of the Galena and Minnesota Packet Line, a steamboat company. Abraham Lincoln appointed Jones as U.S. Marshall in northern Illinois. A Republican Party leader, he was an important supporter of Ulysses S. Grant’s successful presidential campaign.
The 22-room mansion is privately owned, but open to the public from mid May to November. The house is filled with period furniture, and you may recognize a pair of green velvet drapes, the very same that hung on the movie set of Scarlett O’Hara’s Tara, in the 1939 film, “Gone With the Wind.”
Discounted tours for these sites and others are available when purchased through Galena Trolley Tours. Learn more at visitgalena.org or belvederemansionandgardens.com.