Fennimore, WI Wednesday June 25, 2014
We are taking a little jaunt to Wisconsin. Through Sarah, we took advantage of a two night get away to the Fenway House Hotel and The Silent Woman Restaurant in Fennimore, WI. The town is about an hour west of Madison, WI. The population is 2,500 so the name may not spring to your mind immediately when you think of Wisconsin.
Of course, we made it into a road trip, driving along the east side of the Mississippi River and along the Wisconsin stretch of the Great River Road. One of the many travel brochures we saw at a tourist info center said: Visit the West Coast–of Wisconsin. They were advertising the Wisconsin river towns of the Mississippi River. (The west “coast” of Wisconsin.)
The drive took us through numerous, cutesy, small river towns. Speed limit 25 mph. Railroad tracks between the river and the town. The mining of sand for fracking has become big business and highly controversial in the area-on both sides of the Mississippi River.
We stopped in Stockholm WI and had some danish. Window shopped a few stores and talked to one woman running a cooperative craft store. She does needlepoint and her husband does wood working. They want to retire in a few years and spend the winter in the South so we told her about the Stephen Foster Cultural Center and state park in Florida that we wrote about in March. A good place for the two of them to volunteer and obtain free lodging in exchange for their craft work.
The fields looked green and lush. We did not observe ponds of standing water in the fields as there are in portions of southern Minnesota. Right now, the crops look to be in great shape. The homes and towns look prosperous, buildings not in disrepair.
Our major stop was at Effigy Mounds National Monument just north of McGregor/Marquette Iowa. This site preserves over 200 mounds built by Native Americans from about 500 B.C to about 1400 AD of the Woodland and Mississippian cultures. Little is known about why they were built, the cultural significance, and why they were no longer built. On our Deep South trip this spring, we visited two other national monuments for mounds along the Natchez Trace in Mississippi and near Macon Georgia.
Those Deep South mounds were more ceremonial; the Effigy Mounds appear to be heavily, although not completely, burial mounds. They are also smaller. The burial mounds in Indian Mounds Park in Saint Paul are also different, being fewer in number and larger in scope. The mounds we saw today were smaller although a number of them are in the shape of bears or birds. (Not always a clearly defined shape, though.) Like the mounds in St. Paul, a large number here were destroyed as they a.) got in the way of progress, and b.) were not fully understood in the 1800s.
Our history lessons for the summer are continuing. Here, we took a ranger led tour that educated us about the mounds and culture that consturcted them. One topic the ranger did not discuss was the evident mishandling of the site by a previous, and recent, park superintendent.
In the last 10 days we also had a tour of the buildings along Rice Park in St. Paul and a tour of the new artists lofts that are going into the former Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul. We have more Twin Cities tours planned although one or two of them along the Mississippi back in St. Paul might end up being canceled.
The Effigy Mounds are along the Mississippi and parts are high on the bluffs overlooking the river. Flooding is occurring here as it is back in the Twin Cities. St. Paul was predicting the flood crest would be its sixth highest. Most of the flooding in St. Paul and along the river here seems to be restricted to roads, parks, marinas, farm fields,etc. Over the years, it appears that most of the flood prone properties have been demolished or moved to higher ground except for a few vacation homes on an island in the river across from the National Monument.
As mentioned, our lodging is in Fennimore WI. The hotel is downtown and the building was built in 1918 and included a hotel, theater, restaurant, and commercial storage. Our room is nice and includes a jacuzzi tub. Dinner was downstairs at The Silent Woman restaurant. The food was excellent.
Ed and Chris June 25 9:15 pm