Wisconsin Historic Sites Put Heritage in Holidays

By Jim Bach
Special to TravelWisconsin.com

The holidays are a great time to look back, to cherish memories of Christmas past, to linger in the glow of a shared cultural nostalgia. Here in Wisconsin, we treasure that past, preserved in museums and historic homes throughout the state.

During the holidays, many of these properties host special tour opportunities, a chance to mix the joy of the season with a celebration of the past. Here are some of our best historic holiday traditions.

Lincoln-Tallman House – Janesville

Constructed between 1855 and 1857, the Lincoln -Tallman House is a superb example of Italian Villa-style architecture and depicts upper class life during the mid to late 1800's. The Rock County Historical Society presents Christmas tours of this Victorian treasure touched with just a bit of 21st century decoration. This five story mansion is the only surviving private residence where Mr. Abraham Lincoln slept in Wisconsin, staying one night in October of 1859. The Tallman House is a unique house museum, in that nearly 75 percent of the furnishings are original to the Tallman family, including the bed that Lincoln slept on during his visit.

The Pabst Mansion – Milwaukee

In 1892, this Flemish Renaissance Revival Mansion built for Captain Frederick Pabst, world famous beer baron and sea captain, was completed. It was considered the jewel of Milwaukee's famous avenue of mansions called Grand Avenue and represented the epitome of America's Gilded Age Splendor in Milwaukee. For the holidays, a dozen of the Mansion’s magnificent rooms are elegantly transformed with seasonal décor.

Hearthstone Historic House Museum – Appleton

On September 30, 1882, Hearthstone became the first home in the world to be lit by hydroelectric power. Tour this Victorian grand-dame festooned for the holidays with its rich woodwork, parquet floors, nine fireplaces, and authentic furnishings.

Forts Folle Avoine Historical Park – Danbury

Step back in time and experience the fur trade of 1802! This 80-acre historic park is an accurate reproduction of two British fur trade outposts built on this site in 1802. The complex includes the stockaded outpost, an Indian village, an 1887 schoolhouse, and the visitor’s center. Visit the fort decorated for the holidays with garland and lights. Winter season features cross-country skiing & ice skating.

Yawkey House Museum – Wausau

Built in 1900 for lumber baron Cyrus Yawkey, this Classical Revival mansion is a stunning fusion of woodwork and stained glass. Explore and learn about the elegant house which showcases history, architecture and furnishings from an era vital to the growth of Wisconsin. It is particularly impressive decorated for the holidays.

Hawks Inn – Delafield

Authentic holiday decorations adorn this Greek Revival Inn, built as a stagecoach stop in 1846. Learn about the lifestyles of travelers in the mid-19th century where it was the center of social and political life in the frontier village of Delafield. It welcomed farmers in search of a homestead, trappers, traders, territorial politicians, and miners. Eighteen of the inn's 22 rooms are open for public viewing.

Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center – Coon Valley

Norskedalen is a 400-acre heritage and nature center dedicated to preserving the Norwegian culture of the Coon Valley area. On the Bekkum Homestead, you can visit log cabins heated by wood stoves and decorated for the holidays. Watch as artisans spin, carve & bake in the traditional Norwegian pioneer style. Horse-drawn wagon rides, kid’s crafts, holiday pastries, and musical entertainment fill these holiday tours.

Wade House – Greenbush

Built in 1850, this Yankee stagecoach inn welcomed weary travelers for half a century. Experience the beauty and simplicity of a mid-19th century Christmas. Enjoy Yankee and German traditions of the season, hands-on activities for young and old, stories and horse-drawn wagon rides. This Wisconsin Historical Society site includes a blacksmith forge, sawmill and extensive carriage collection.

Old World Wisconsin – Eagle

This remarkable Wisconsin Historical Society site offers sixty historic buildings organized in several ethnically themed pioneer villages. See how 19th-century immigrants got their homes and shops ready for the holidays. Discover the origins of our favorite holiday traditions. Bring the kids for storytelling, caroling, historic games, holiday treats, hot cocoa and chili.

Heritage Hill State Park – Green Bay

Celebrate the season amid 25 period buildings dressed for the holidays. Feel the chill on your nose and the warmth in your heart as you stroll through town, listening to carolers and drinking hot chocolate. Make holiday crafts, buy holiday bakery at the Belgian Farmhouse, enjoy performances by area musical groups, take a horse-drawn wagon ride, visit with St. Nick, and make s’mores by the bonfire.

Octagon House – Hudson

Built in 1854, the Octagon House is a fine example of the novel eight-sided house popular in America in the mid-1800s. Resplendent in traditional Victorian holiday decorations, the Christmas tours include the gracious, restored house with its Victorian furnishings, as well as the adjacent Garden House and the Carriage House, which includes the Museum Gift Shop and research center.

Fairlawn Mansion – Superior

Built in 1890, this 42-room mansion recalls the elegance and prosperity of Superior’s early boomtown days, as well as the mansion’s 42 years as an orphanage. Stroll through the fully decorated mansion at your own pace. Enjoy music, hot cider and special guests in period costume.

Wisconsin Governor’s Residence – Madison

Built in 1921, Wisconsin’s Executive Residence is a 34-room Classical Revival mansion overlooking lovely Lake Mendota. The guided holiday tours, which last about 30 minutes, include a brief history of the home with a walk-through of the main rooms on the first floor that each display a beautiful ethnically-themed evergreen. There is no charge for admission.

Pinecrest Historical Village – Manitowoc

This 60-acre outdoor interpretive museum of local history features 25 historic buildings with period furnishings from Manitowoc County's Norwegian and Bohemian/German immigrant settlers. Celebrate the holiday traditions of the past with sleigh rides, live holiday music, beautiful decorations, and family activities in our stove-heated buildings.

Hazelwood Historic House Museum – Green Bay

One of the city’s architectural gems overlooking the Fox River, this restored, ten-room 1837 Greek-revival home is decked out for the holidays with authentic furnishings, period Christmas décor, complimentary refreshments and docent-led tours. For 100 years it was the home of three generations of the Morgan L. Martin family. Martin, a successful politician, businessman, lawyer and judge had a career that spanned sixty years

This entry was posted in Things to Do, Arts and Culture, History & Heritage and tagged Features and Profiles