Beaver Dam is a city of 16,000 in Dodge County with a lot of heart. It was founded in 1841, Thomas Mackie observed a large number of beavers in the area, placing a fair amount of dams in what is now the Beaver River.
The beaver is still a large part of the culture of the city, as we discovered upon arrival. We arrived by 7:30 AM, I noticed a wood beaver in a costume in someone’s yard! We stopped to take a picture and the owner came out of the house to greet us. His name is Gene Kirschbaum. He has lived in Beaver Dam since 2011. The beaver was a former tree, very large and posing a danger to the house. After getting most of the tree cut down, he commissioned a wood-carver to make the beaver. Over the last few years, the beaver and costumes has become a big part of Beaver Dam, people purposely go by the beaver just to see the latest costume he is sporting! His beaver is famous, this year a calendar was made with a different costume for each month. It is a fundraiser for the Dodge County Parenting Project. Gene gave us a calendar and took our picture with the Beav, thanks!
Close by is Wayland Academy, a boarding school of approximately 200 students. These are historic buildings that have stood the test of time and still being used to educate high school students.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s presence is also felt here. We visited the Arnold Jackson House on the outskirts of town, now a bed and breakfast.
Downtown, there is much to see. We stopped by the Chamber of Commerce. It was Sunday and they were not open by we took our picture with their beaver too!
The Dodge County Historical Museum is a beautiful stone building, kitty-corner to the Chamber.
The view downtown, looking East towards Wayland..
Right next to this red building on our left is a marker dedicated to Frederick Douglass, who came to speak in Beaver Dam on October 20, 1856.
This is the 6th building down from this view. The site is historically important, not as much the bank but the log cabin that was here first. It is the equivalent to the Peck Cabin in Madison. Beaver Dam’s first Caucasian girl was born on this site in 1842.
The Beaver River flows through town, and the dam still exists. It provided power once to a Cotton Mill, now re-purposed as Beaver Dam Lake Historic Lofts.
On the other side of the dam footbridge is Cotton Mill Park.
This isn’t the only historically significant park in Beaver Dam, Swan Park was central to the city’s early history. A spring flows here that the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Indians believed had medicinal properties. The Pavillion is the only surviving structure of the resort that was once here.
Beaver Dam has done well re-purposing historic buildings to provide housing for it’s citizens. The former cotton Mill is the first example. The 2nd example is the former Shoe Factory, now a large apartment building with 50 units.
The 3rd example we saw was the former Roger’s Hotel, now an called The Rogers. It goes back to 1928. The building was also in the 2009 movie, Public Enemies as the Hotel Congress.
Speaking of entertainment, the Beaver Dam Area Community Theater is a beautiful former church, we attended a performance there in 2003.
A beautiful former church is now a venue for weddings or other events in the community, the Chapel of the Archangels.
Our first visit in Beaver Dam 11 years ago we ate at Ming’s Garden Buffet downtown for Chinese buffet. It was great there, and they are still open!
This time though, we went to another popular restaurant, Walker’s Restaurant & Bakery and Coffee Shop. They have been here for 42 years and are quite busy! The food was fantastic! Al had a roast beef dinner, I had fish and chips. For dessert, we shared an Elephant Ear Sundae! Delicious food, we plan on returning.
We had a lot of fun here and will come back again in the summer. Make yourself at home in Beaver Dam!