Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Illinois Freedom Bell
College Campus Village Square, East Front Street and South Wesley Avenue, Mt. Morris, Ill., mtmorrisil.net/freedom-bell
With a town motto of “Let Freedom Ring,” it’s no surprise that Mt. Morris would celebrate Independence Day in a big way. In fact, since 1963 this Ogle County community has rung its bell on the village square in unison with the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
The story of how the bell made its way there is, itself, one for the history books. Cast as a replica of the Liberty Bell in 1862, the bell was originally commissioned for a church in Lake Geneva. When the church caught fire in 1910, crews dragged the bell across the frozen Geneva Lake, only for it to plunge through the ice and sink to the bottom. It was salvaged in 1960, and in 1966 it was acquired by the Village of Mt. Morris.
In 1971, the bell was designated as the official Freedom Bell of Illinois. The words spoken by then-Gov. Richard Ogilvie at the bell-ringing ceremony were immortalized on a plaque affixed to the bell: “On this, the occasion of the first official ringing of the Freedom Bell at Mount Morris, let this message be heard by all Americans. ‘Let us be one nation, dedicated as never before, to the realization of the promise and freedom for all.’”
4963 Saint Seraphim St., Rock City, Ill., (815) 449-2765, orprcamp.org
When Archbishop Vladika Seraphim and Yuri Soldatov sought an ideal site for a Russian Orthodox summer camp in May 1961, they discovered a 70-acre property in rural Illinois that featured a 4-acre lake and a 3-acre woodland. There, they opened Russian Orthodox Pathfinders (ORPR) youth camp. This summer retreat is designed to provide Russian Orthodox youth with instruction in religion, culture, history and outdoor survival, all in a beautiful camp setting.
The camp was in operation for less than a year when leaders determined they needed a place to worship on site. The following spring, Bishop Seraphim was approached by a man with a miraculous story. Nikolay Kovalenko experienced untreatable headaches and nosebleeds, so he prayed to the Virgin Mary and dreamt of an icon surrounded by saints. In his dream, he received the icon. When he woke up, he was healed.
Kovalenko had more dreams and was instructed to build a church, so he offered his life savings to Bishop Seraphim to help build the church that’s now dedicated to Saint Vladimir the Great.
Today, the area known as Vladimirovo consists of the ORPR summer camp, Saint Vladimir’s Parish and a small grouping of buildings.
Members and volunteers work to improve lives and instill values through youth development, family involvement, healthy relationships and spiritual growth.
Camp runs July 1-July 29 this year.
Clinton Water Tower
Herb Reffue Park, 408 High St., Clinton, Wis.
Clinton was a growing collection of farmers and industry in 1894 when village leaders hired the Fairbanks, Morse Co. of Chicago to design the community’s first public water system. At the time, Fairbanks, Morse manufactured numerous metal products, including small engines and Beloit’s Eclipse brand windmills. A referendum in Clinton that October set aside $11,600 for construction.
Crafted from local limestone by local mason Jacob Miller, the tower didn’t start operating until late 1896 or ’97, months after a fire ripped through the village’s business district. In 1929, the original wooden tank was replaced with a larger steel tank, which is still in place.
In 1969, the city erected a new elevated sphere tank on the southern edge of the village, signaling the passing of an era for the stone tower. Six years later a Rockford firm offered to buy and demolish the tank, until local citizens stepped in to save it.
Now part of the National Register, the tower sits in a public park that has picnic tables, a pavilion and a playground.