"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 :)
If there is any building structure we have found interesting and unique in our travels the octagon design has topped our interest list. It was a popular design in the 1800’s and some of these buildings have become tourist attractions. here are the ones we have seen in our travels.
Sometimes the octagon shape was only visible from the inside and just a portion outside. The Larson House in McFarland is an example. It had a room in that shape, three sides visible from the outside. It was the upstairs Master bedroom.
The Village of Genoa City is only 2 miles from the Illinois border in Walworth County, giving it the distinct honor of being called “The Gateway to Wisconsin.” The village is best known as the fictional setting of the soap “The Young and the Restless.” Genoa City is a small community of 2,766, we received a warm “hello” from passersby as we explored downtown. It was first known as Genoa Junction and first platted in 1841. Many of the early settlers immigrated here from the Italian Alps. We also discovered that the first Swedish settlers in Wisconsin made Genoa City their home. In Veterans Park is a marker in a beautiful shelter and had a Swedish flag flying outside. The park also had a mural painted under a bridge that goes over Nippersink Creek.
This was downtown in 2012.
And in 2015. The village has changed a little since our last visit. Some building improvements have been made or new businesses started.
Genoa City Public Library – They were very helpful answering our questions about Genoa City and locating the former Paiser Pickle Factory, in the process of being torn down. This is the last building remaining. Thank you for helping us find it! It may be gone the next time we come by.
This beautiful Victorian is the Haase-Lockwood Funeral Home. It was was built in 1899 and 1900 for $8000. It was a private residence until 1943 when it was made into a funeral home. The Haase family bought it in 1953 and added on in the late 1950’s. Bruce Haase and his family were born and raised in that building and his mother still lives upstairs. They have done some landscaping since 2012, new steps on the right and the post lights.
After talking to a nice lady at the Police station, I found out the location of the former Opera House, currently vacant. It’s right next to Keller’s.
The post office. They helped us find the former movie house in this red building.
Get groceries at Genoa City Foods. One thing I have noticed is how the people in this village are close-knit. I saw this sign outside of the grocery store. Rick Eklund, a resident of Genoa City, passed away 1-26-15.
Watertown is a city of 23,000 with a rich history carefully preserved. It was founded by Timothy Johnson. He arrived at the Watertown site 12-10-1836. He also co-founded nearby Johnson Creek. If you are heading to Watertown from the west, at Rest Area 13, where you can see a historical marker describing hills left by the glaciers called Drumlins.
German immigrants built many of the historic buildings all over town. It’s home to the famous Octagon House (shaped like a stop sign), built prior to the Civil War. The house is now the base of operations for the Watertown Historical Society, and is open for tours April to October, and some special events Nov-March.
The Cole Memorial Bridge is the centerpiece of downtown, the Rock River runs under it.
We also discovered this site was also important during the Black Hawk War of 1832.
Many murals also adorn the sides of many buildings highlighting Watertown’s early history. Here is a pretty circus mural, picture taken in 2010. It is somewhat obscured now by the business occupying the building.
Watertown is known also for many buildings constructed of brick made from a special light color clay found near Milwaukee. Because the clay was so plentiful, Milwaukee was dubbed “Cream City” The Octagon House is built from this brick.
We have also enjoyed patronizing some of the great businesses here. Berres Brothers Coffee Roasters is our favorite place for the best coffee ever! Not just coffee but a cafe serving breakfast and lunch.
Another favorite place is Glenn’s Market and Catering. They make their own meat products and so much more! Even have a selection of gluten-free products. We highly recommend stopping here for your grilling and party needs!
We also enjoy shopping at the Bethesda Thrift Store when we stop in Watertown. We always find great stuff here!
If you look right of the depot, you see an impressive large building up on a hill. It’s Maranatha Baptist University, since 1968. One hundred years earlier in 1872, it was Sacred Heart College, then Sacred Heart Military Academy in 1955. Read about the early history here.
There is much more to learn in Watertown and will be back again soon!