"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 :)
There is much to see in Rhinelander and this museum is a must-see if you only have one day.
The Pioneer Park Museum Complex is America’s oldest Logging Museum and was once an actual logging camp. It is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, closed Mondays except for open and end of the season. During September, open Fridays and Saturdays.
This is a self-guided tour, and upon arrival you are greeted by a docent and given a sheet describing each building and exhibit in order so you don’t miss anything. Page 1 and following exhibits.
The Civilian Conservation Corps provided jobs during the Depression in the 1930’s. It also helped build the infrastructure of the National and State Parks throughout our country.
The Fire Barn had a beautiful mural painted on two sides.
Three trucks on the inside.
There was a teepee outside of the Fire Barn too. Here we are for scale.
Now we head to the Blacksmith Shop, very interesting! when you walk in they have a cross section of Wisconsin trees at the Nicolet National Forest on display.
In the main building are many treasures to be seen, some of them animated. We first see a logging camp setup for their dining room.
As you can see up ahead, this is the door leading to the “captured” Hodag. Also a Hodag “roar” and a mini-sawmill model with moving figures inside. Also Hodag art.
I just heard the roar from the Hodag on the left. A docent at the museum will press a button to play the roar.
The Model Sawmill is amazing, its 75 years old! It used to run on steam, now its electric. Here is some information about the builder. Lets see it in action!
This concludes Part 1 of the museum, the half on the right side of the complex.
Part 2 – The Railroad Museum
On the left side are all the railroad cars, the Rhinelander Depot and other artifacts of interest. Click on pages to expand.
First off is the Steam Hauler, which used to pull logs on a sleigh with ease. It helped cut down the cost of logging and wear and tear on horses!
The Rhinelander Railroad Association has been involved here, and a fine job they have done! They also have a model railroad in the basement level of the depot. I hear the train now! This is simulated, the train is really stationary and does not give rides.
If you want to ride a real steam train, you need to go to Laona to ride their Lumberjack Steam Train. Its about 45 minutes west of Rhinelander.
We enjoyed getting the grand tour of the displays by a volunteer from RRA. He first showed us the model railroad, filling the entire room. How impressive!
There were many good displays on the top floor too, even a train stained glass window.
And the grand finalé, we recieved a tour of the car currently off limits to visitors, the “Thunder Lake Company Car”, or President’s Car. Our guide showed us the work still had to be done here, and the need for donations. $10,000 is the goal and there is still a LONG way to go. While you are there you can either put money in the donation box or send a check here. Interior of car and restoration photos exclusive here.
Thanks very much for showing us so much, you take pride in your work and it shows. Now to wrap up our tour. here are a few more exhibits. It was an enjoyable 2 1/2 hours of exploring and we learned a lot!
Near the entry take a picture with the hodag and/or a carving of Tom Skubal, a former CCC participant.
Rhinelander is a city of almost 8,000 in Oneida Co. It’s also the county seat. We have been wanting to come here for a long time, this gateway to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We also wanted to see the mythical creature, the Hodag. It was “discovered” by Eugene Shepard in autumn of 1893. This is the famous picture that he used to prove it was real. He showed the hodag at the first Oneida County fair in a dimly lit tent. People were skeptical about this creature, but believed it just enough to run out of the tent screaming when Eugene made it move, marionette-style. The hodag is still part of Rhinelander mythos today, now turned from a scary monster to a cute mascot for the community.
The first place one should stop is the Chamber of Commerce, where you can take your picture with the Hodag and pick up area information. It is at 450 Kemp St. We did just that! Don’t worry, this one is tame and LOVES posing for pictures 🙂 There are many more scattered throughout town, we saw as many as we could. This is a sample, we counted about 20 but probably missed some. You can get Hodag souvenirs here too.
Hodags downtown, such works of art!
This video is a good summary of Hodag lore.
Lets take a look at the historic downtown, it was filled with many beautiful buildings.
The Merchants and Trust Building, the library was in a room there before the current building was built.
My favorite building is the Courthouse, beautiful day or night! This is the view shortly after sunrise, then 2 AM on July 8. The night is short there this time of year. The dome is Tiffany glass, VERY unusual. It glows green at night.
Closeup of the glass panels within each square that makes up the dome.
And at night, my favorite!
There are also historical markers on site.
This sounds strange, but we often make a cemetery one of our stops. We stopped at Forest Home Cemetery to see the sites of two notable people buried here. This cemetery is large and it was a challenge finding them. The hardest one was Eugene Shepard, the man who “found” the first Hodag in fall of 1893. For someone who is largely responsible for Rhinelander’s identity, his gravesite is very humble. Here it is, plus it’s coordinates.
N45º 37.867′ W089º 23.912
The other gravesite is John W. Heisman, founder of the Heisman Trophy. His is even more humble, it’s a flat marker. This is how we found it. Look for the Donaldson large monument, it is in front of that.
N45º 37.867′ W089º 23.973
We also saw a Packer house on 224 Sutliff Ave.
Rhinelander also has two museums. The Rhinelander Historical Society Museum on 9 South Pelham St. was not open, despite the sign saying it was open when we arrived at 2 PM on a Tuesday.
We were fortunate however to see the Rhinelander Logging Museum. It is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. the museum is located at 135 South Stevens Street at Pioneer Park. See next post to read about our experience there 🙂
We also had a great visit at Hodag Park, on the shores of Boom Lake. Here you will find the Hodag historical marker and several shelters and playground. There are also Hodag Water Shows in the summer.
Rhinelander has many restaurants. We ate at two of them. We had a dinner and breakfast at the Friendship House on 2260 Lincoln St . They open early which was great for our busy day of exploring. We were treated like regulars, the staff takes great pride in their work. Our coffee cup never had the chance to get empty. Chris told us proudly he made the pies, you know we had to have a piece! Al and I shared a piece of Strawberry Cream. Selection changes daily.
The other place is where “Around the Corner With John McGivern” visited, Joe’s Pasty Shop. We wanted a simple meal after spending Tuesday exploring all over town. The have four flavors ready-to-eat and many more you can bring home frozen ones to cook later. Delicious! View John’s entire visit to Rhinelander last summer.
We stayed two nights at the Days Inn downtown, only a block from the courthouse which made my night photo of it a short walk away. The only drawback is there is not a free continental breakfast. It was a good excuse to go back to the Friendship House after a fine dinner there the night before.