Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Milton House Museum
18 S. Janesville St., Milton, Wis., (608) 868-7772, miltonhouse.org
Built by Milton founder Joseph Goodrich in 1844, this three-story hexagon-shaped structure with a two-story rectangular wing was both a stagecoach inn and the Goodrich family residence. It was constructed of an unusual grout mixture of lime, coarse gravel and sand, the first poured concrete building in the U.S., and today, the oldest still standing.
Attached to the south face of the tower, the rectangular two-story wing was made up of five sections, with the family living quarters on the second floor and a variety of shops on the first. Inside the tower, the rooms are laid out around a wooden, hexagonal staircase in the center, which wraps around a masonry chimney that rises to the roof. The basement originally was divided into three rooms and used for cold storage; a fourth wall was added in 1954 to provide public restrooms.
The inn was a stop along the Underground Railroad, and a 40-foot tunnel in the southeast corner of the basement connects the inn to a nearby cabin. Goodrich, an abolitionist, provided a safe haven for runaway slaves by hiding them in the basement of the inn. The Milton House is part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
Today, the Milton House Museum is operated by the Milton Historical Society.
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., seven days a week, Memorial Day to Labor Day; 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Tues.-Fri., Labor Day to Memorial Day. Closed on all major holidays. Tours by appointment.
H. I. Lincoln Building
136 N. Elm St., Franklin Grove, Ill., (815) 456-3030, franklingroveil.org
In 1853, Henry Isaac Lincoln, a cousin of Abraham Lincoln, settled in the area that would become Franklin Grove and built a dry goods store. Its top floor was used for weekly dances, church services and even basketball games.
Through the decades, the building was used by several groups, but by the 1970s, the structure was empty and remained so for 20 years. In 1995, a local group formed the nonprofit Farming Heritage Inc. (FHI) and procured ownership of the building, restoring it as closely as possible to its original glory. They salvaged all materials they could for reuse and re-created features, using old photos and old lines on the wall as guides.
The restored building opened officially in 1999, after FHI members secured its designation as the Lincoln Highway Association National Tourism Headquarters. The H.I. Lincoln Building was a perfect site for its headquarters: It was built by a relative of the road’s namesake, on a stretch of the original Lincoln Highway, and in 1914, it was the site of fundraising efforts by a member of the original highway association. In 2013, it hosted several highway centennial celebration events.
In addition to housing Lincoln Highway memorabilia and information, the building now holds a shop offering antiques, toys, dolls, unique woodworking decorations, handmade soaps and locally produced maple syrup.
Each third Friday is free “Music at the Lincoln Building,” featuring local musicians playing country, bluegrass, blues and more.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. noon-4 p.m.
Lincoln-Tallman House Two-Story Privy
440 N. Jackson St., Janesville, Wis., (608) 756-4509, rchs.org
This restored Italianate mansion, completed in 1857, was built by William Morrison Tallman, lawyer and outspoken abolitionist. A year before he was elected president, Abraham Lincoln slept in the residence after speaking at the Beloit City Republican Club – hence, the site’s hyphenated name. On display in the bedroom where Lincoln slumbered is a candlestick from the Lincoln china, gifted by The White House.
Restored to its Victorian glory, the Lincoln-Tallman House is now home to the Rock County Historical Museum. Guided tours cover five levels, from the basement to the cupola. Behind the house is one of its more unique features: a two-story privy, where it almost certainly can be said Lincoln sat here.
The lower level of the privy, accessible only from the outside, was used in warmer weather. The upper level is connected to the second-floor servants’ hallway. Each level was made with three seats, each a different size to accommodate all family members.
Even with this indoor access, tour guides explain, bedrooms were still equipped with chamber pots. A night trip to the privy would have meant walking past the servants’ quarters in night clothes, which would have been out of the question.
The Lincoln-Tallman House is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon.-Fri. from Jan. 2-May 31 and Oct. 1-Nov. 20; and seven days a week from June 1-Sept. 30 and Nov. 30-Dec. 30.