Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
21527 Sedgwick Lane, Shullsburg, Wis., (815) 751-7400
In 1827, Fortunatus Berry moved his family from Springfield, Ill. to the small lead mining settlement at Gratiot’s Grove, Wis.; two years later he opened a log roadhouse for travelers.
When the Chicago to Galena stagecoach line extended service to Shullsburg around 1840, Berry built a new wood frame hotel along with a livery stable, bar and dining rooms, dance hall and seven guest rooms.
A murder occurred there in 1842 and in 1854 it was the site of a cholera epidemic, the victims of whom are still buried on the property. It’s rumored that Berry, too, is buried on the property, though the location is unknown.
The mining settlement and stagecoach line eventually disappeared, and in time the tavern became a private farmhouse. It was all but abandoned when a distant relative of Berry, guided by family papers, joined with local history buffs to buy the property in 2013 and establish Friends of the Berry Tavern.
Over the past decade, the group has preserved the property as they expose original details such as limestone walls, white oak beams and original pine floors. The group offers tours by appointment and hosts fundraising activities, including a concert on the lawn set for July 15.
Intersection of Chestnut and Second Streets, Byron, Ill., byronmuseum.org
Dedicated on Oct. 18, 1866, in the middle of an intersection, this monument is one of the oldest Civil War memorials in Illinois. Its commission began less than six months after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, in part to honor the 30 local men who died with the 92nd Volunteer regiment.
The Rutland marble monument originally stood atop a stone base on a grassy mound with a marble eagle surmount. Much of its $1,400 cost was raised from locals by subscription.
In 1897, two cannons from Governor’s Island in New York Harbor were placed on the north and south sides of the monument.
For years, locals gathered around the statue on Memorial Day. Children laid wreaths and bouquets and adults read the names of the fallen.
Tragedy has befallen the monument twice: in 1899 when it was struck by lightning and again in 1918 when a tornado ripped off its eagle surmount.
The community came to the memorial’s defense in 1984, when residents stopped a plan to relocate it from its home just east of downtown.
Today, the monument’s now-faded and stained inscription still bears the names of local men who died in the war, along with the Illinois coat of arms and a tribute to those who were lost.
Sandwich Opera House
140 E. Railroad St., Sandwich, Ill., sandwichoperahouse.org
This modest venue has a lot to offer a small city in DeKalb County, Ill. Constructed in 1878, the building initially served as a community gathering space, a local theater and an office for city government, police and fire.
Over the years, the Opera House was slowly abandoned until it held only the mayor’s and city clerk’s offices in the late 1970s. In 1979, the mayor appointed a committee to save the facility.
This volunteer group studied the issues, researched the building’s history and decided to adhere to its original use as a space for public gatherings. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and was thoroughly restored, to the point that details like stenciling were painstakingly reproduced. In 1986, the city celebrated a grand re-opening.
Today, the building serves as a home for live theater, recitals, weddings and traveling performers. After the COVID-19 pandemic canceled many shows and recitals, the Opera House is back with a full slate of events to keep audiences returning year after year.