Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
National Museum of Arcade Toys
1140 S. Carroll Ave., Freeport, (815) 232-8419, arcadetoymuseum.org
In the early 20th century, a number of nationally known toy manufacturers called Freeport home. One of the more prominent companies, Arcade Manufacturing Co., began as an iron and brass foundry. Tracing its roots to the 1870s, the company focused mostly on coffee mills and hardware specialties into the 1890s.
In 1895, Arcade launched a small line of toys, mostly as a way of using leftovers from the production line. The introduction of a cast-iron yellow cab in 1921 put Arcade on the map. A decade later, toys comprised one of the largest divisions, on part with specialty hardware and molding machines.
Wartime production in the 1940s brought an end to Arcade’s toy line, and the entire company was bought out by Rockwell Manufacturing Co. in 1945. The Freeport factory closed eight years later.
Amidst the Rockwell merger, Arcade secretary Issac Gassman donated more than 300 toys to the Stephenson County Historical Society, representing a collection of artifacts from the manufacturer’s offices.
Today, the historical society maintains and displays more than 800 toys – all produced locally by companies like Arcade, Strutco, Friedag and Realistic Toy Co.
Hours: Wed.-Sun. noon-4 p.m.
Chief Shabbona Monument
301 W. Cherokee Ave., Shabbona, Ill.
Standing tall outside Indian Creek Elementary School, this monument honors Potawatomi Chief Shabbona and his role as a peacemaker between settlers and native tribes.
Born to the Ottawa tribe in Ohio, Shabbona married the daughter of a Potawatomi chief whom he later succeeded. Shabbona served as the principal chief of the Council of Three Fires, which banded together Ottawa, Potawatomi and Chippewa tribes in the early 1800s.
Chief Shabbona fought alongside the British in the War of 1812 and eventually befriended American settlers moving into what was then known as the Old Northwest Territory. When Winnebago tribes rose up in 1827, Shabbonna alerted settlers across northern Illinois.
A few years later, he raised the alarm once again when the Black Hawk War brought more conflicts with tribes and settlers. Shabbona volunteered to lead an attack against Black Hawk’s Sauk and Fox tribes and served as a scout for Illinois militia forces.
The stone monument, which was donated by former Indian Creek Elementary School students, sits within the DeKalb County village that bears the chief’s name. It encourages all who visit to learn more about Chief Shabbona and his many contributions to our region’s history and relations between American Indians and settlers.
Rock County Historical Society Holiday Tree Show
426 N. Jackson St., Janesville, (608) 756-4509, rchs.us
Throughout the holiday season, the Lincoln-Tallman house is transformed into a winter wonderland with more than 30 lit and decorated Christmas trees upon the grounds. Inside, the historical home is endowed with more than 130 additional festive trees.
The tree show, which runs Nov. 25 through Dec. 30, encourages visitors to take a self-guided tour of the house to see festive decorations placed throughout the mansion.
The William Tallman family resided in this brick Italianate-style mansion from 1857 to 1915. The house hosted Abraham Lincoln as an overnight guest before he became the 16th American president. Today, the site is managed by the Rock County Historical Society, and it’s a museum and a venue for rentals, education programs, dining events and other gatherings. It’s open for public tours, though the home is generally closed to the public from January through March.
The Rock County Historical Society has held holiday events here for many years, but the outdoor light show didn’t begin until visitors began asking for a larger, more significant holiday event. The trees are typically decorated by sponsoring businesses and nonprofit organizations. This year, the historical society also has a team of elves who can decorate on behalf of sponsors.
Outdoor Holiday Tree Show Hours: Sun.-Sat. all day.
Indoor Holiday Tree Show Hours: Thu.-Fri. noon-7 p.m., Sat.-Sun. to 4 p.m.