"Wisconsin-Happy Festival State", by Eve Phillips. My husband and I love to travel in the state of Wisconsin where we live and get great pictures on the way. My name is Laurie Kutil and photography has become a great passion of mine since 2010. One thing I have learned in researching each town before visiting it is that, "Every town has it's story". When I do uncover those stories by connecting with local residents, our experience becomes so much richer. In turn, sharing the stories with you brings me joy :)
Our last old-fashioned picture was in 2008, also on Broadway but not here. It was at Professor Samuel S. Porter’s Old-Time Portraits.
To treat ourselves for our 19th wedding anniversary that occurred the day before, we arranged to get a tintype picture at the famous H.H. Bennett Studio on Broadway in the Wisconsin Dells. Our Photographer was David Rambow, expert in wet-plate photography since 2001. He is also Site Director for Wisconsin Historic Sites under the umbrella of the Wisconsin State Historical Society. We booked it well in advance at the H.H. Bennett website, deposit is $50. From there you can choose your package and complete your payment during your sitting.
We arrived at 10:30 for our 11 AM sitting, ready to be impressed! I had picked out clothing we had that looked sufficiently “period”, late 1800’s. My lace collar that I wore over my blouse was crocheted by my Grandma Tauchen when they were in style in the 1980’s!
Dave greeted us warmly and invited us to the very studio where Bennett made the Dells famous in the 19th and 20th centuries. This is how the backdrop looks in color.
Behind the chairs are head braces to help you hold still while the picture is taken. This is a long exposure photo. The darker the studio, the longer the exposure. Since it was a bright sunny day, it only took 6 seconds.
Photographer Robert Squires was there too and documented our visit. Thanks for the great photo! He got a picture of Dave installing the prepared wet plate into the camera. It takes 3-minutes to get it camera-ready after exposure to the chemicals. There is no going back once it is preparing!
Dave graciously allowed us to shoot video of getting our photo “struck” so we could show everyone how it’s done! See it below.
We had a great time doing this amazing photo, and they said Al looked like a Civil War vet. We were sent a digital copy ahead of the photo that would be sent in the mail to us.
On August 1st we received our photo in the mail. It was varnished to help protect it from scratches. It was beautiful! On the back was David’s info about the photo.
Also some information on how the photo was made.
I already had a frame to put the photo into that looked good with it.
Don’t pass up your opportunity to get a tintype photo taken by David at THE H.H. Bennett Studio!
The latest trend in unique restaurants is ones with cats you can interact with. Madison didn’t waste any time clueing into this new idea and the Cat Café Mad was born!
In April 2016, it just had a small kiosk in the front to get your drink from a single cup brewing machine. They expanded in 2017 to have more room for the cats and provide a larger menu, also to survive. There is now an open kitchen and small dining area to eat your food. Only drinks are allowed into the “Cattery”. These are your drink choices.
Hot tea also.
A view of the open kitchen and dining room.
Today’s special was a Pulled Pork Crepe, crafted by Chef Dunn, Manager and Chef at the café. It was delicious! We had the large crepe, there are choices for every palate.
Just to let you know, the cats are not just sealed into a room with no stimulation. There are lots of toys and windows for them to peer through. In the wall separating the cattery from the restaurant, there are 5 bubble windows so they could see what is going on. As you see, one was doing just that.
Some cats were looking inside and it was so cute! Five cats are permanent residents, the others are up for adoption so the number of cats varies. The current list.
We finished our crepes and were ready to play with the cats. In between the room and dining area is an “airlock” to ensure an extra barrier between the people and cat area. Only children 5 and up are allowed, and a waiver must be signed by all patrons. A $5 cover charge is required to enter the cattery, it help cover the cost of care. Photos are permitted, don’t use flash as it will startle the cats. There are rules all must follow to protect the cats and yourself.
Also tips on how read cat body language. For someone who never has owned a cat (yet!), this was very helpful to me.
The cattery also has webcam you can watch anywhere on your device or computer. Click on this icon from the website. The camera is on the wall in the center of the room in the back.
Enjoy this video of our visit!
Such a wonderful place to de-stress if you love cats but can’t have one at home. The crepes are delicious too! Many fun events happen here on the weekends. High Tea is quite popular. See it here on time lapse.
Wall Drug Store is one place you must see if you visit South Dakota. My dad came here a log time ago and said we needed this unique place on our itinerary. We stopped here on our way to the Badlands to see what the buzz was about.
This place is big so allow yourself plenty of time. We spent about 90 minutes here, a whole day is really needed to see everything. It is not just one store but MANY stores. We explored the main store on the left. That alone was big enough. Another new store was going up.
We entered the main building, it looks like an old west scene, complete with characters to take selfies with.
Even Zoltar the fortune teller.
There is even a chapel inside the store, very beautiful! Quite an interesting story of its history too.
Just before leaving we stopped in the ice cream shop for a treat. As always, ice water is free.
Also the gift shop, what do you choose?
You could easily make a day of this place, we had a hard time leaving but the journey continues. Be sure to bring your camera!
We arrived in Minneapolis in pouring rain around 6 PM after leaving home about 12 hours earlier. On the way we saw Pickwick Mill and Pepin while traveling the Great River Road. Tired and hungry, we stopped for dinner at Saguaro ( Arizona/Mexican cuisine). Turns out it is one of he best Mexican restaurants in Minneapolis. We have to agree! The staff were friendly and we enjoyed our experience there.
Our dinners, we both chose the Taco Platter, but you could do a lot of mixing and matching. A great way to end our day and relax after a long day on the road.
Day 2 – 9/19
The rain was gone and we were ready for adventure! We took care of some family business first. My maternal Grandmother and her sister grew up here and we went to the Lyndale neighborhood where they lived. Saw my former great-grandparent’s house, now rented by two tenants. It was good to see it again after 15 years.
We also went to the other side of their block where my teen grandma picked up some groceries for the family. I don’t know what it was called then but now it’s Kyle’s Market, open 9 to 9 daily.
We also paid respects to my great-grandparents and great-aunt at Lakewood Cemetery along the shores of Lake Calhoun. We also discovered the Pillsbury family is buried here, we could see the tall monument from my family’s grave site. More on Pillsbury later.
On our way to our next place we saw a vintage White Castle Hamburger building, now Xcentric Goods.
We soon arrived Minnehaha Park, a popular park for over a century. It’s also the center point of the founding of Minneapolis. On location is the Princess Depot that used to bring people to the park on a train. Now, it’s a museum open seasonally.
The first settler of Minneapolis, Colonel John H. Stevens is memorialized here with his former home turned into a museum. Also a statue in front of the house.
We happened to be there when the groundskeepers were making their rounds (you can see them behind the statue). Even though the museum was not really open for visitors at 7:45 AM, they did for us since they are just nice people 🙂 Lets go in! There is a plaque just outside of the door.
That was fun, thanks for the great tour! Now we proceeded to the other great attraction of this park, Minnehaha Falls. As we got closer, you could hear the rush of water. The sunrise was illuminating the mist the falls created, beautiful!
An interesting fact, President Johnson visited the falls in 1964, they marked where he stood in concrete and you can stand there too.
There were stairs going down to the bottom of the falls, offering this view.
The park also has a large pavilion for events.
It was now almost 9, time for our next attraction. We were treated to a great skyline view on the way!
The frame around the picture tells you what was coming up next. It was time for lunch and we had it in the historic Band Box Diner. There is only one in the whole city, and world! We are lucky to have been able to eat there at all. In March 2015 the 30-year old grill stopped working and they didn’t have enough money to buy a new one. Not to worry though, the customers banded together and raised the funds to buy a NEW GRILL! We are so happy they did, this landmark restaurant is too good to close!
After lunch, time for our biggest attraction for today, Foshay Tower. The W Minneapolis Hotel is also in this building. It has the only sky deck in the Twin Cities for visitors to enjoy, the view is from 30 stories up. For adults not staying there, it’s $8 to go to the sky deck. What a wonderful view! You could see St. Paul, also the Minnesota Twin’s Target Field inside the stands.
By then it was 3:30 and we had until 5, when we went to have dinner with some relatives. A beautiful afternoon with many people there enjoying the day.
On the other side of the bridge you could see the remnants of the former flour-milling era.
Pillsbury and Gold Medal Flour factories
Along the trail are also free viewing scopes that kids really enjoy looking in.
The trail goes by Mill Ruins Park, which is still undergoing development but the first phase is what you see here.
It is also a popular wedding venue, you could see the wedding party taking photos below.
You could also see Mill City Museum from the trail, not enough time to stop there unfortunately. You could see people up there!
A Segway Tour just went by us, they made a turn and went under our part of the trail on the Stone Arch Bridge.
It was time to be on our way. We hear music from a street musician playing on his guitar as we head back.
One thing we noticed about this friendly city, photo shoots! We saw three today, there may have been more we didn’t know about. We had a great day, on Sunday we were going to see some of St. Paul before going back to Madison.
This was a very special weekend at H.H. Bennett Studio, they were celebrating their 150th Anniversary and we had to be a part of it. It was our first time visiting and we were in for a treat! Admission is $7 for adults, but waived on this weekend. They always accept donations. There were costumed interpreters, even Ho-Chunk music and dancing since H.H. Bennett was kind to them and allowed him to photograph them. Just outside of the right-side building is a rotating picture display.
H.H. Bennett was a pioneer in photography, he invented the “snapper” in 1878. You no longer had to sit perfectly still for 5 minutes or more to get a portrait taken. He took pictures all over the Dells with his new technique. His most famous shot was his son Ashley jumping at Stand Rock. It took him 17 tries to get this shot. Bennett’s work helped bring people to the Dells and the tourism industry was born there!
Just before a Dells Boat Tour left the dock, Bennett would take a picture of the group in the boat and have the picture developed and printed by the time the group came back. It took A LOT longer to do the tour in the 1880’s, you had to help row the boat! Now it only takes two hours and the crew does all the work.
Photo by H.H. Bennett
The tradition continues now, we got our picture taken just before the tour we did three days later.
We went inside, you could get many souveniers, including prints of Bennett’s famous photos. The docents near the museum entrance greeted and welcomed us. We knew this was going to be fun! The studio continues to support the Ho-Chunk Nation by selling their jewelery and books.
I hear drums! A couple of representatives of the Ho-Chunk are going to be performing some dance and song for the guests. Two talented children showed us what they have learned so far about their culture’s traditions.
There was much to see inside the museum, new displays and really liked how the older building showed how his studio probably originally looked. Also the history of cameras and what ordinary people used in times past, including myself!
Bennett’s descendants are still involved with the museum today. Betsy Grant, Bennett’s Great-Granddaughter, was on hand to tell us about his many accomplishments. It was great meeting you Betsy!
3-D display using Bennett’s photos
Stereo viewers, precursor to Viewmasters.
The Bennett Studio, and displays inside.
I had my picture taken with H.H. Bennett himself 🙂 Al wasn’t nearby at the time.
On the 2nd floor they showed 40 minutes of silent film that Miriam Bennett shot from the 1920’s through the 60’s. These excerpts are Broadway Street scenes from the 20’s, 50’s and some Ho-Chunk dancing. I added some music to the movies.
We had a great time learning about this great Photographer. Nearby is the house where he lived, on 825 Oak Street. The season for visiting here is usually early May through late October.
The Chazen Museum of Art is a great place to visit for fans of all kinds of art and no admission is charged. Photography is permitted for free also, flash use is prohibited and camera hand-held only. With advance notice, you can bring in a tripod and other equipment, or an easel of you want to paint your own painting!
This museum is also part of the University of Wisconsin campus. It originally was called the Elvehjem Art Center when it opened in 1970 and in 1978 changed to the Elvehjem Museum of Art. The adjoining new building was completed in 2011. Docents sometimes give tours to both small and large groups.
We have been here before for a music performance in 2013. A weekly event that was called “Live From the Chazen”, is no longer being performed. Today we were here to see the many art displays and we were impressed by the variety. Even the lobby (Paige Court) was beautiful, this is a view from the 2nd floor balcony.
We begin our tour in the Elvehjem building. Here are a few select pieces.
This is just a small sample of the many beautiful works of art here. You can browse the collections here on their website if you can’t see them in person. A great place to visit if you come to Madison.
Our travels have taken us from Florida to northern Minnesota in 16 years of marriage. Each experience has enriched our lives and we learn more about our great country and the people in it. One thing we have learned is, “Every town has its story” and part of the fun is learning what those stories are. We have met people who’s ancestors has lived in these towns for many generations and have told us of their ancestors having a large part in their community’s founding.
Most of our travels have been in Wisconsin due to time restraints but we don’t feel limited by that. There is so much to see and do here! In our 15 years of marriage, we have developed a list of tips to make our trips successful and nearly free of frustration. For all trips with enough advance notice, I contact the area’s Chamber of Commerce to send us a publication. If the trip is planned less than a week in advance, we make sure we get to the chamber when we are in town. We learn a lot from talking to the staff who work there too, so go in if they are open.
If you happen to be traveling further afield and may need to rent a vehicle at your destination, I recommend Turo. Check out the airport car rentals at your airport. More are added frequently so check often for updates.
One Week (or More) Out
Research where you are going. I keep a stenographer pad on a clipboard and make a page for the town we are going to. We make a list of points of interest and try to find them in advance, getting addresses. I look for historical markers in the area that we are visiting at this site:
Check your own state for similar sites. A state’s Historical Society is a great resource. In addition, I look for a town’s Historical Society (if any) and check for buildings of interest.
Day of Trip
Choose clothes suitable for weather
Many of our adventures are outside all day, especially in summer. We dress for sun protection and comfort. Comfortable walking shoes are a must, I especially like Columbia hikers. Moisture-wicking socks (not cotton) go a long way in helping your feet feel good all day. The shirts we wear are also non-cotton. Gander Mountain and Travel Smith have great shirts that protect us from the sun. We have often found such shirts at thrift stores for a greatly reduced price. We also wear hats with brims going all the way around and a bandana around our neck to prevent sunburn. Also sunscreen and sunglasses of course. For people who need to wear glasses at all times, bring a spare pair in case of breakage. It is also good to carry a spare set of clothes if you get wet or dirty.
Be sure to tell family and friends where you are going and when you expect to be back. Also leave them numbers to contact you in case of emergency and have them do the same. Plan for delays, it is hard to be precise even with a timetable mapped out.
1. Food – Pack a lunch or snacks, you WILL get hungry, sometimes when you are not near a restaurant or gas station.
2. Water – Bring refillable cups that fit in your vehicle’s cup holders and a gallon insulated water jug with more. You won’t always be near drinking water on your travels at all times. When we hike, we wear a Camelbak Hydration System filled with plenty of water for our hikes.
3. Garmin and road maps (if the Garmin fails) – Our Garmin nüvi has been ESSENTIAL for helping us plan our trips, as well as Google or Bing online maps for planning routes. We can even input addresses in advance on the Garmin to save time on the road. You save a lot of money and time by not getting lost.
4. Road Emergency Kit – Spare tire, First Aid Kit, blanket, winter wear, tire jack, flares and emergency flashing lights, flashlight, crank radio, hand warmers, etc. for winter travel, also include a small shovel and cat litter to give tires traction in snow if you get stuck.
5. Stand-alone portable device charger – Both vehicle-powered and not. Don’t be caught with a dead phone when you need it the most. We recently acquired some solar powered chargers too.
6. Camera – An important part of your trip, it pays to invest in a quality camera. My primary camera is a Canon Powershot SX500 IS, 16 MP. I have had it for two years. I saved over $50 on the camera on a sale just before Thanksgiving. Get plenty of extra batteries, I have six. Also have a lens-cleaning cloth handy in your camera bag. Also invest in an inexpensive tripod for a great self-portrait or when you need the camera to be rock-steady.
All these tips have helped us to have stress-free adventures and we go home with many great memories to share. Happy travels!