"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 :)
Green County Cheese Days in Monroe is back again, and this year I planned on taking the Barn Quilt and DeVoe Dairy Farm Tour. I had not done this before and I was excited! Our guides are Kris Winkler and Lynn Lokken. I went alone since Al couldn’t come with me on Saturday. The tour was sold out with over 60 people filling the bus!
We headed out at 11 AM, Kris and Lynn gave a running commentary during the tour. We saw a great many barn quilts. To do your own tour, you can get the map from the Green County Visitor and Activity Guide. There is a pull-out map in the middle of the publication. You can also see a Google map of the barn quilt locations from the website, Green County Barn Quilts. We saw as many as we could in 2 1/2 hours. Here is a small sample of the quilts we saw.
Kris and Lynn also pointed out several businesses and cheese-making places along the route. The first was Rackow’s Family Sausage with the distinctive pink silo!
This quilt was mentioned but we didn’t see it on the tour. This one was modeled after a scuba diving flag, a sport we participated in together for many years. It’s called, “Live and Let Dive”, #141 on the map.
On the tour, we also got a sneak preview of a brand-new goat and sheep dairy farm that is still in development. It’s called Ms. J and Co. This farm will be able to provide sheep and goat milk on a larger scale to cheese producers in Wisconsin. They are predicted to come online in 2020. It’s possible we may get a tour here at Cheese Days in two years!
The Village of Redgranite is located in Waushara County and home to 2,149 residents. This community has the proud distinction of once having been the state’s main source of Red Granite and became its namesake. Learn more about the village history here. Now, the community best known for its patriotism and probably the biggest Labor Day celebration in the county.
We will begin our exploration. In the center of downtown is Veteran’s Memorial Park where a monument of red granite proudly stands. Also one dedicated to all veterans of the community. The Labor Day celebration takes place in this park too.
There is a village water pump, dedicated in 2012. You can buy a brick lining the edge with the engraving of your choice. There was once a three-story yellow schoolhouse on the site of this park.
Also a Lions Club Concession building with a beautiful mural inside depicting the quarry in operation. I joined all the sides together and made it flat.
King Memorial Park on the corner of Hwy. 73 and Foster St. has a gazebo and Free Little Library. A church used to stand here before a fire destroyed it in 1986. The land was donated by the Bannerman Granite Company in 1904.
Speaking of Bannerman, enjoy a ride on the 7 mile long Bannerman Trail, formerly a railroad track for Chicago and Northwestern.
Redgranite has many businesses to serve you. On the west side is Lucassen’s Sentry grocery store. We remember it was once a Piggly Wiggly in the early 2000’s. It officially Became a Sentry on March 15, 2016.
The original Village Hall building next to Lambeau Lanes, currently vacant. The new building is behind it
A former business in town, in 1998. A pickle factory.
We have now reached the famous quarry that made this community in the late 19th century. Here is an aerial photo, Google Earth.
It has changed a lot in the 11 years since our last visit. Most of the trees surrounding the quarry in the late 1990s are now gone and the trash has been cleaned up.
We used to scuba dive in the quarry. I shot video of one our dives back in 1998. We found a lawn chair, boat, and snowmobile on the bottom. I hear there is a school bus on the bottom too.
If you decide to go into the quarry to swim or dive, please take caution. It can be a dangerous place, three people have drowned there in 2015 alone. The water is always cold at depth and it may be as much as 210 feet deep. We stayed under 40 feet and had a great time 🙂
Here is then and now, similar vantage point.
Another current view, including the platform left from the mining days.
The ruins of a building that was part of the quarry operation.
We were back on 9-30-16 to see fall color at the quarry, beautiful!
We explored the west side of it this time since we missed that on our April visit. We went into the woods and made a new discovery, more remnants of the former mining operation! We found this concrete structure, similar to the one on the other side!
Al stood next to it for scale, he is 6’3″. It appears to be almost 18 feet high.
Behind this was more to see, three concrete “walls” with doorway cutouts on one end. They were hard to photograph because the are closely surrounded by forest overgrowth.
Here is a side view of one of the walls.
Also back there was what appeared to to the remnant of a track where perhaps small cars were leaded with granite that went to the quarry edge. Just guessing of course.
And the best artifact of all! We found a brick mostly buried in the dirt near here. We extracted it. The brick was manufactured by Langenberg Brick Manufacturing Co. in Stevens Point around 1900 approximately. Here is a historic photo of the brickyard.
State Historical Society
Excerpts about the brick company found in Google Books from 100 years ago.
Their bricks also built the former insane asylum in Marshfield, long since demolished. Learn more about this industry here.
Redgranite’s website is very helpful, it has a map of the village pointing out the historical buildings. We used that to help us find them, a great guide!
A word of warning, if you take a picture of the “House of 7 Gables” on 403 Foster Rd, you do it at your own risk. The lady of the house threatened to call the police if you take a picture her house, even though it is legal if you don’t take the picture on the owner’s property. I will respect her wishes and it won’t be published here.
The first house built after the quarry business began. It was built in 1894-5.
The Bannerman House on 313 Foster Rd. is where the quarry owner Hedley Bannerman lived.
On 414 Foster is the Pickett Fence House, there are 1300 pickets in total.
This is old Water Street Jail, built around 1900.
St. Mark’s Catholic Church was originally made of wood and built in 1906. The building was replaced in 1960 and made of stone, the rectory is especially colorful. The prevalence of quarries in the area means many houses and businesses made use of this stone.
We first began going here in 2000 to practice our deep scuba diving skills in a clear lake. Then busyness and other factors kept us from coming here for 10 years. We returned to rekindle that happy feeling again and see updates done since our last visit here.
Jackson County offers a great many outdoor sport and hunting opportunities, not just water based. Here is a list of all the fun you can have here!
We arrived at the Wazee Lake Recreation Area in the morning, the lake steaming since the air was colder than the water surface. There is a small fee for entering the park, $3 for a vehicle. We found out there are more diving entry points then there were 10 years ago. They also better named too, rather than just North entrance, etc. Here is a diving map of the lake with depth profiles.
Took a look at their campsite, was have camped here before. It’s primitive, no hookups. There is water and a restroom building though. There are 12 sites, first come, first served.
The Wall Dive Access
A new entry point called “Bluegill Alley” There is a map showing an underwater course to attractions on the bottom.
As we go around the lake clockwise, we find another informative sign and overlook.
Our favorite and biggest site improvement was made here at the Sherwood Forest Dive access. There is now a wheelchair-accessible pier, restroom building and grills, and picnic tables. Many kind hearts in Black River Falls. There is even a table for divers to put their gear on by the water.
For the first time, we had a good look at the beach, nice!
South Shore Boat Landing
This was our favorite site of all. This is where we liked to do our 100-ft deep multi-level dive. We go down to 100 ft. deep, then up to 70, then 40 and do a safety stop at 20 feet back in the shallow area by the fish cribs.
I got video of this dive too in 2000, join us!
We had a great visit here that brought back so many happy memories. Remember to stop by the Wazee Sports Center for tank air, including Nitrox and other custom air mixtures for tech divers.
Black River Falls means a lot to us, and it had been too long since our last visit. The last time here consisted of two scuba dives in mid-summer. This time we were here to explore the town and discover more of the history of this friendly community. It is located in Jackson county and is the county seat as well. Jackson County is cranberry country, and we went by many bogs as we traveled here after a brief stop in Wisconsin Rapids. Also saw a historic marker.
Jackson County is also home of the rare Karner Blue butterfly, and Black River Falls has a Karner Blue Festival every July. If you travel south Black River Falls on I-94 E, take exit 53 to see a historic marker on “Sphagnum Moss” and the Winnebago Indians (Ho-Chunk), the most prominent tribe in Central Wisconsin. Also a sign about the Karner Blue, it was badly damaged by water and hard to read. And a sign about “The Barrens”, describing the landscape of the area.
We reach Black River Falls as we continue up 94, you see the sign “Black River Crossing” (Oasis) and a view of the Best Western Arrowhead Lodge with a pond. You can take your picture with a big Orange Moose and mouse with cheese here (top photo). They are accessible from the parking lot at the oasis. Also a leaping deer.
Another smaller moose leading to the hotel, where the Orange Moose Bar and Grill is.
In this area is also The Mocha Mouse, a coffee house that also has Wisconsin gifts to remember your visit here.
We continue up the driveway and turn left, heading toward downtown. We go past the Pilot Flying J Travel Plaza, another place we enjoyed stopping at in the past. Ten years ago they had their own restaurant called The Cookery, it has since been converted into a Denny’s. We used to enjoy a great buffet there back then. We didn’t eat there this time. We ate lunch at the Norske Nook in Osseo, a favorite of mine for over 25 years. I introduced Al to this restaurant over 10 years ago and he loves it too!
Let’s head downtown to see the sights.
Let’s head downtown, crossing the Black River bridge, to our right is the dam, generating power for the community. It was completely rebuilt by 2010.
Our visit downtown had many nice stores and the lamp poles had flower baskets hanging from them.
We turned right after crossing on the historic 1924 bridge and went to the Chamber of Commerce to get more publications on the area. The staff there are happy to answer your questions.
Across from the Chamber is a monument marking the site of the sawmill near the power plant.
Back downtown was noticed how well kept the buildings are and there were even murals on the sides of many of the building walls. They profiled BRF early history. Here are a couple of them.
Our favorite place downtown was The Merchant General Store. You felt like you were walking into an 1800’s General Store. It housed the original general store in 1912! We really had a lot of fun here looking around at candy we enjoyed as kids, also toys. Even a corner by the stove to play checkers, just like the old days. The basement level has antiques and more knickknacks. We got a vintage potato ricer and mug rack. We recommend any visitor stop here 🙂
Other historic buildings downtown. This used to be Union High School, now an apartment building.
It was getting late and we were tired, so we headed to where we were staying for the night, the Fall’s Motel. We had stayed there once before in 1999. In the morning we had a free breakfast there and it only cost $60 for the night.
Our last stop before heading home, our favorite deep lake for scuba diving, Lake Wazee. A former quarry, it is the deepest inland lake in Wisconsin and even has a shallow beach at one end. We have dove as deep as 100 feet here, the max depth is 355 feet. Tech diver students from all around come here for training. Keith Cormican of the Wazee Sports Center has the certification to provide this training. We have known him since 2000, when we made our first dives here.
This concludes our visit to Black River Falls, we enjoyed seeing the old sights and plan on coming back to dive next year after getting back in shape again. One last look at the Black River Crossing sign, we will be back orange Moose!