Midwest Traveler: Small-town museum in southwest Wisconsin has big vision
The Driftless Historium in Mount Horeb, Wis., is an impressive tribute.
By Betsy Rubiner Special to the Star Tribune
AUGUST 2, 2018 — 5:47PM
MOUNT HOREB AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The Driftless Historium in Mount Horeb, Wis., includes an 1890s former hardware store and a replica of an 1882 railroad inn.
Most small-town history museums I’ve visited have been cramped and cluttered places with haphazard displays of local castoffs. Wandering through them reminded me of rummaging through my grandparents’ attic as a kid.
Back on the megabus/windstar bus and so far so good despite some initial chaos at the bus stop when crowds of riders were trying to figure out which of several buses were theirs.
We ended up at the Chicago history museum yesterday- we were eager to beat the heat and opted against the Singer Sargent show at the Art Institute for fear it would be too crowded and close to the lollapalooza throngs. The museum had some cool things including a temporary exhibit on Chicago blues with fun interactive elements. We made our own record covers, sang karaoke on stage with Koko Taylor (who I saw live several times) and worked a sound engineer booth. I learned that Crate and Barrel started in Chicago and had an early partnership with Marimekko, the Finnish textile design company that I learned more about in Helsinki.
Dinner at Nonnina was enjoyed by all, which was a relief since ours can be a discerning crowd. Surprised by how packed it was at 6 pm on Saturday night. Excellent Italian. We walked along the new-ish river walk and were impressed by all the hubbub, people everywhere on and off the water, at cafes, restaurants and public spaces, hanging out on docked or moving boats. The city was all lit up at night and looked great. The one potential issue is all the private boat traffic. The river is pretty narrow and there seemed to be a lot of traffic from kayakers to boat tours and public water taxis to fancy cruisers and little dinghies. Very democratic but chaotic.
The birthday girl, Heather, wanted fresh oysters so we tried a fish house in the North Chicago neighborhood of Lakeview that turned out to be a keeper. Heather liked her oysters and everyone else liked their picks (lightly battered perch, a salad with Cajun-seasoned shrimp, my tuna tartare).
Then we walked along nearby Southport street which as forewarned has gotten more “bougie” (as in bourgeois or what was once called yuppie) than when I was there last, several years ago. Some pricey name store (bonobos, free people, Hanna Anderson) but also some small boutiques with reasonable (sale) prices.
I successfully avoided going here when my daughter was little but must admit it was fun to tag along with my 6-year-old niece Lucy, her AGDoll Christina and our amazing aunt Mary Ann for lunch at the cafe in the Water Tower building. It was fun to see all the mostly little girls and their dolls (we did meet a 13-year-old Betsy who was celebrating her bday), so excited and enjoying themselves. The food wasn’t bad either (steep prices) and the service was by sweet women skilled in being kind to kids. There are worse things. The two floors of merchandise was unavoidable, of course.
pplaying catch up from a hospital bed in dsm, post arm surgery, and no joke…my nurse is name bob
which brings me to our Sunday in Omaha which was a lot of fun. We stuck to our neighborhood, the Blackstone District and when the wait was too long for the early bird restaurant, we went next door to bobs donut coffee and chicken where we had two of the three (I don’t get the chicken thing). It was perfect and I enjoyed watching tattooed parents coming in with their little kids for breakfast.
from there we drove downtown to the Nebraska side of the bob (Kerrey) pedestrian bridge whic has some great views of the two states and the river. Found a spot to be in Nebraska and Iowa simultaneously.
onto some other Omaha hotspots that we have somehow missed during brief drive throughs in the past. Our kids, when they were little, would have loved Hollywood Candy, which not only has an outstanding selection of vintage candy (my Royal Crown sour candys greeted me right at the front door) but also an amazing collection of vintage kitsch, old pinball machines, lunchboxes, trolls, records.
we didn’t go into the exhibits at the Durham Museum but we walked around the Art Deco former train station in awe. Lunch was a surprisingly good shared tuna sandwich at the Cubby convenience store near the Old market (it even has an outdoor patio, away from the gas pumps.) . We were saving up for Coneflower icecream in the Blackstone District which was excellent (the garden mint chip really did taste like it had I mint from our garden). Omaha was fun!
We have passed through Omaha many times, sneaking in a quick visit to the Indian restaurant in the Old Market, but we have never stayed overnight to explore. So here we are, staying in a spacious 1920s era apartment (thank you Airbnb) in the recently revived Blackstone District on Farnam Street, about 2 Miles west of the old market area. It consists mainly of about 4 blocks of interesting restaurants, bars and a few shops in older brick buildings in what was not long ago, we’ve heard, a rundown area. So basically, our kind of place.
We stopped at Blackstone Meatball because we’d never been to a meatballery before and sure enough they had quite the selection including a meatball flight (a variety of 5) and the meatball of the day (chorizo). We split a small meatball slider – pork with peppers, ricotta, Parmesan, garlic. Very moist and flavorful. Almost light.
we also chanced upon an artist’s in residence open house at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, located in a big red brick former warehouse near the old warehouse district. It’s been around for decades but we’d never heard of it. Our Airbnb hosts suggested it. Walking around the studios that double as living spaces on the second floor, we met an artist from Dublin and another from Riga, Latvia. Word has it there are 10 artists in residence who get a three month live/work studio here — as part of one of the top international residency programs. The work was pretty avant-garde. The main floor is a huge gallery, which was devoted to a one -woman show of “Hot Mess Formalism” by nyc artist Sheila Pepe, with giant fiber macrame installations, as well as ceramics and other mediums. To mark the show, free “hot mess” ice cream (a strange mix of vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips and bits of red licorice was served in little Chinese takeaway cartons. We were advised by some of the artists not to try the other option — avocado ice cream
we also dropped by the Hotel Deco downtown which has a tiny intact original Art Deco lobby and some interesting little bar spaces. Omaha is looking good!
We found our J & J Jackson water bottle that we mistakenly left behind!
We visited the place where the council in Council Bluffs comes from. Who knew, although I could have guessed, that the council refers to a meeting between native Americans and the explorers Lewis and Clark. We learned this while visiting a very cool, somewhat hidden memorial marking this council, located high on a bluff with a panoramic view across the Missouri River of downtown Omaha and the Omaha airport.
What did we do before Google and cellphones? (My mother, writing in her travel journal 25 years ago, asked “what did we do without faxes?”) We found this place, off a winding country road, past horse farms on the outskirts of Council Bluffs, after I googled to find a picnic spot with the best views of the river. It turned out to be a dramatic overlook with some 1930s’ poured concrete, possibly WPA reliefs, depicting the “council.” It seemed like a local secret. There were several well positioned picnic tables, although we could have used a little shade.