Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Ulysses S. Grant Home
500 Bouthillier St., Galena, Ill., (815) 777-0248, granthome.com
Would the United States still be united today, had President Abraham Lincoln not tapped the military talent of Ulysses S. Grant? Many historians think not.
And yet, when the war began, Grant couldn’t even get a commission. He earned respect by successfully training novice Illinois volunteer regiments and, later, by setting aside his West Point training in favor of more pragmatic battle strategies that other Union generals refused to adopt.
If you enjoy U.S. history even a little bit, you owe yourself a visit to the home that was presented to Grant and his wife, Julia, by grateful Galena citizens in 1865 – that’s 150 years ago.
Unlike many historic homes, it’s filled with period objects the Grants actually owned. Tour guides love their subject, and it shows.
The home is open year-round, Wed.-Sun. 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m., and is closed on major holidays.
Operation hours are Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. A goodwill offering is suggested: $5 for adults and $3 for children.
Jaycee’s Covered Bridge
On the Sugar River Bike Trail, about 2.25 miles north of Brodhead, Wis.
In 1984, the Brodhead Jaycees built a replica of the Clarence Covered Bridge, one of the last known covered bridges in use in Wisconsin, over Norwegian Creek on the Sugar River Bike Trail. The original bridge spanned the Sugar River south of town, on what is now Wisconsin Highway 11. The replica is about 2.25 miles north of town on the Sugar River Bike Trail (set on a former rail line) and is located a quarter-mile north of Golf Course Road.
In every season, this bridge is a beautiful reminder of the quaint scenes that were part of our everyday history in past centuries.
The original purpose of a covered bridge was practical in nature. The cover protected the wooden trusses, used to build such bridges, from bad weather. The walls helped water-shy horses summon their courage to make the crossing. They also acted as a safety feature for pedestrians who crossed the bridges, particularly for young children. Only a handful of original covered bridges remain in Wisconsin and Illinois.
Logan Museum of Anthropology
At Beloit College, 700 College St., Beloit, beloit.edu/logan
This teaching museum on the Beloit College campus is open to the public and houses a rich array of artifacts from around the world, including a large collection of Native American antiquities, and Central and South American Pre-Columbian pottery.
Nearly as interesting as its collections are the stories behind those who donated them. Its namesake, Frank Logan, donated the Rust Collection, which was compiled by East Coast traveling salesman Horatio Nelson Rust, a passionate amateur archaeologist who accepted artifacts in lieu of payment from his customers.
Logan arranged to show much of Rust’s collection during the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893.
Roy Chapman Andrews, a dashing explorer who braved sandstorms, shipwrecks and villains during his world explorations, was a Beloit College graduate and avid supporter of the museum. Many believe he inspired the character “Indiana Jones.”
Among the thousands of fossils and treasures Andrews discovered were first-ever-seen nests of dinosaur eggs, found during an American Museum of Natural History Central Expedition in Mongolia and China, which he led.
Many of the museum’s most important artifacts are housed in “The Cube,” an impressive climate-controlled structure that doubles as a laboratory where you often can see students at work.
Logan Museum is open year-round Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. It’s closed during the college winter break, Dec. 16-Jan. 7.