According to historic record, no parts of the Underground Railroad are documented to have been located underground, except one. And that is where Milton House comes into play. Built in 1844 by Joseph Goodrich, an inn owner known for his stance against slavery, the structure’s underground tunnel led to a basement that became a safe place where runaway slaves could rest and hide away from prying eyes before finishing their journeys. Today, the hexagon-shaped building stands as one the oldest poured-concrete structure in the United States. Tours and exhibits send guests back in time to learn about Wisconsin’s role as a Northern state before the Civil War and how the Goodrich family secretly operated its safe haven.
Café Belwah presents inventive cuisine and sophisticated adult beverages in a refined yet relaxed atmosphere. Hearty breakfast choices, such as pancakes topped with sautéed apples, bananas, and homemade butter-pecan syrup ($7), imbue diners with the strength to speed-read encyclopedias or move mountains just a touch to the left. Lunchtime arrives with salads, soups, and sandwiches, including the croissant-borne crab-cake sandwich with chipotle tartar sauce ($10). Café Belwah's wines, specialty cocktails, martinis, and beers flirt with the brain's happy centers and the knees' wobble buttons, and dependable menu standbys are frequently crafted with local ingredients, including the likes of roasted duck with cranberry chutney ($24) and mushroom ravioli genovese ($17).
Rife with presidential artifacts from Ulysses S. Grant to Ronald Reagan and pop-culture memorabilia from Elvis Presley to Ghostbusters, the 36,000-square-foot Historic Auto Attractions curates an eclectic collection of historical and pop-culture memorabilia through 11 themed rooms. Visitors can peruse World Leaders to see the limousines of Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as the personal cars of Adolf Hitler, Nikita Khrushchev, and Benito Mussolini. President Kennedy's assassination is revisited at the Kennedy Day In Dallas exhibit, which displays the actual Secret Service car that drove behind Kennedy's car in the presidential motorcade, as well as the ambulance that took Lee Harvey Oswald to the hospital after Jack Ruby shot him. The museum's new Abraham Lincoln display introduces history buffs to Lincoln's White House rocking chair, his personal razor blade, and his beloved Captain America comic-book collection.
Situated inside the historic Power & Light building, the Geneva Lake Museum replicates Lake Geneva's Main Street from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Inside the museum, visitors stroll around admiring the turn-of-the-century Georgian and Italianate architecture that forms historic stores, a school room, and a 1920s dental workstation, among other spaces. Guests may walk into the rooms themselves and closely examine old-fashioned farm implements, a telephone switchboard, or Potawatami tools and arrowheads. Beyond Main Street, museum visitors can study up on Frank Lloyd Wright's Hotel Geneva or the Chicago & North Western Railway. Sightseers can also explore Lake Geneva, the city's namesake and a 7.6-mile body of water that empties into the White River. The lake is surrounded by a 23-mile public path, which makes the area attractive to Midwesterners who want to take a scenic day trip or ducks that want to train for a marathon.
The Rockford Art Museum has more than a century of creativity hanging from the walls in its galleries. It acquired its first piece in 1913 and has since collected more than 1600 pieces from local and international artists. Glass sculptures, 20th century American photography, and impressionist paintings vie for attention alongside the dynamic images of the American southwest from the Taos Society of New Mexico. The collection houses the detailed work of regional artists trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Royal Academy of Arts and the earthy, meaningful paintings of outsider art, such as Richard Burnside’s untitled painting of a cat made from paint and pinecone pieces.
Standing apart from the main collection, the museum’s RAM Art Annex houses educational programs and the museum store stocks an inventory of jewelry and glass pieces by local artists. The annual Greenwich Village Art Fair also shares art appreciation with the community. The fair gathers more than 100 artists in an atmosphere filled with live music.
Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum is a Victorian-era time capsule, containing within its Swiss-style architecture more than 10,000 objects representing the furniture, artwork, and clothing of the Tinker family. Between the main estate, the barn, the carriage house, and 27 acres of rolling gardens, the museum possesses enough history to attract locals, tourists, and even the producers of Syfy's Ghost Hunters, who recently filmed a segment at the house. Daily guided tours sweep through the grounds, which include a pre-Columbian Native American conical mound, as well as the site where Rockford was founded 4,000 years ago.