Historic Old World Wisconsin ~ Pioneer Pictures ~ Stepping Back in Time
Wisconsin Bicentennial Project
When visiting the very historic Old World Wisconsin be prepared to be taking a step back in time to the 19th century to see how the pioneers lived and survived in Wisconsin. Be sure to take your camera for some great picture taking opportunities!
Oh and be sure and take some good walking shoes!
Opening for the first time in 1976 as a major celebration of what Wisconsin created for our nation's bicentennial, this massive undertaking has served since that time to record what life was like for settlers to Wisconsin in the format of an outdoor working museum.
Why the recommendation for good walking shoes? The setting of Old World Wisconsin is located on 576 acres of land!
Divided into different areas of ethnicity there are a total of 10 working farms.
The photo at the top of this page shows workers stacking already harvested oats in the fields.
Depending upon the time of year one might visit, this year round museum shows all the things that the pioneers would have been doing more than a century ago in order to live and thrive in this environment.
With effort and hard work involving clearing the fields, ploughing and working with sustainable agriculture (which was the norm back in those days), Wisconsin rewarded these hard working pioneer families with good rich farmland in which to raise their crops and feed their animals.
Winters were cold and most often the land would be blanketed with snow. Thus from early Spring to the last days of Fall these farm families would have been putting in long hard days of work preparing for the frosty weather to come.
One can not only see these appropriately costumed Old World Wisconsin workers and volunteers performing the usual chores but in many cases one can even participate in some of these activities.
In 1990 my mother, niece and I were visiting some relatives of ours in Wisconsin as a part of our vacation that year.
My Aunt Arry thought that we would like to spend a day at Old World Wisconsin and we absolutely loved it. It was not in existence when I was a child growing up in Wisconsin.
For school children to adults this place not only entertains but also serves to educate people about the past.
Many of the 60 or so historic buildings have been moved from various locations within the State to now be clustered on this site. Some were in good repair and others had to be restored.
There are 12 working gardens and if one is so inclined to do a little hoeing and weeding (if that is what is being done at the time of one's visit) one can join in that activity.
Everything that would have been normally done with regard to the gardening, preparing of food, sheering sheep, stacking oats in the field, canning, spinning wool into yarn and other sundry routines of daily life is all there to be enjoyed.
The people working there impart stories while they are going about their daily activities.
Visitors can have any questions that might occur to them be answered in this interactive museum setting by the costumed workers who really act as docents.
It is truly an amazing place!
Shown below is an impressive one of the relocated houses on the site of Old World Wisconsin.
The Sanford House was built in 1858 in La Grange, Wisconsin and is of a Greek Revival style. It obviously reflects the tastes of what would have been a wealthy and prosperous Yankee farmer back in those days.
This is a one room school house which was originally built in 1896 for use in the town of Russell.
It has been restored and now shows what it would have been like in the year 1906.
The three of us joined others in sitting in the wooden student desks and listened to some lessons as they would have been taught by the school teacher standing at the front of the room. Children of various ages and grades would have been taught in this one room.
There was a dunce chair which sat in a corner of the room and was probably well utilized throughout the years!
At one time in my childhood I attended a parochial school and several grades were combined in one room. There are some advantages to that! Homework could be addressed and even finished as another grade was being taught. For the smarter kids they could listen and learn absorbing more information than would normally be addressed by simply being in one grade at a time.
The Grotelueschen Blacksmith Shop
This blacksmith shop was originally located in the Village of Waubeka in Ozaukee County of Wisconsin.
German born Henry Grotelueschen was the owner and his shop was built in 1886.
On the day of our visit the fires were hot and this young man was doing some work on horseshoes of which there would have been much necessity back in that day and age. We could readily see all the tools of a blacksmith's trade.
Hammering those partially molten rods of metal into the various shapes of articles needed would have kept a blacksmith busy servicing the needs of residents living in the surrounding countryside.
St. Peter's Church
This church was originally called St. Luke's and was the first Catholic Church in Milwaukee, built in 1839.
The Koepsell House
This half-timbered German "Fachwerk" house was built in 1858 and resided originally in the town of Jackson in Washington County, Wisconsin.
This is one of three farms in the German area of Old World Wisconsin.
The Schottler and Schulz farms join the Koepsell farm in showing more of the German influence in the settlement of Wisconsin in earlier days.
Apparently Mr. Koepsell was a successful dairy farmer as well as a builder of houses in Wisconsin.
The Turck - Schottler House
In comparison to the Koepsell House, this German built house shows a different method called "Blockbau" and it was built in 1847 in Germantown, Wisconsin. In 1865 a lean-to was added enlarging the space for the family.
In the picture below, some visitors are walking by one of the 12 gardens in Old World Wisconsin just outside the Turck - Schottler House. It seems to be bearing some good produce.
Originally owned by the Turck family it was sold to the Schottlers, another German family, and was moved to Old World Wisconsin in 1977.
Animals on the Farm
At Old World Wisconsin one will see oxen and horses in the fields often hooked up to plows with the farmers preparing land to be cultivated and planted.
Sheep were an important animal to early 19th century pioneers due to the ability to be able to harvest their wool and spin it into articles of warm clothing.
Pigs became an important food source and dairy cows provided milk as well as meat.
Roosters and chickens were also a common animal found on the farms. Eggs from the chickens and the meat provided a good and ready source of protein.
Of course the early settlers also supplemented their pantries with animals that they would have secured by hunting and fishing.
It is in the Polish Area of Old World Wisconsin that one finds this shelter that housed both humans and their chickens.
As already pointed out animals were important to the lives of pioneers. Often the people slept in rooms adjacent to the animals (as in this case) or in some cases in lofts above the animals. The animals would have been protected from inclement weather and also other animals who might have found them as easy prey.
This unique type of architecture is called "stovewood" because the walls are created of logs that are stove wood lengths held together with mortar.
The Kruza House was built in 1884 and was originally located in the Town of Hofa Park.
Tour with Loyd Heath - Old World Wisconsin Foundation
The Pedersen House
The Petersen house and farm is found in the Danish area of Old World Wisconsin.
Primarily the Pedersen's earned a living by raising dairy cows as well as gardening and the other normal living and surviving skills honed by most pioneers settling in Wisconsin in those days of the 19th century.
Originally built in 1872 the Pedersen home was located in the Town of Luck in Polk County.
A kitchen wing had later been added and it bears a resemblance today to what it would have looked like in 1890.
While in America, the Queen of Denmark actually made the effort to dedicate this rustic Pedersen house in the Bi-centennial year of 1976 in Old World Wisconsin.
Not all of the work by pioneers was done outside of these structures consisting of farm homes, barns, shops, churches, schools and other buildings making up these early 19th century settlements in Wisconsin.
Steady work was also done by the wives, sisters, grandmothers and other family members inside as well.
Volunteers and workers are busily engaged in doing the necessary tasks that were of equal importance to keeping their families safe, clothed and fed just to name a few of the things one gets to see as one wanders inside of the various buildings as well as traversing the grounds.
Spinning the carded wool into usable clothing was showcased in several of the homes the day of our visit.
From sweeping the wooden floors to making bread and pies to milking the cows and using a fancy cream separator that had been invented in 1915 or simply "relaxing" for a few moments to cut some fresh green beans harvested from the garden or shelling some peas for the days meals. This and more can be viewed.
The picture below shows that new fangled gadget...the cream separator...that had come along by 1915 to make the settler's lives a little easier.
The round flat bread pictured below would be dried and become rock hard.
Note the hole in the center. That made it easier to hang while the drying process was being completed.
The hardened bread would later have to be soaked in soup or stews or some other liquid in order for it to be readied to be eaten.
Finnish Area of Old World Wisconsin
There are two farms showcased in Old World Wisconsin where the settlers and pioneers to this new land had originally come from Finland.
- Ketola farm
Dairy farming was the Ketola's main business.
- Rankinen farm
The house with my mother pictured in front of it is the Rankinen House which was built in 1892 and was restored to how it looked in 1897. It originally stood in the town of Oulu in Bayfield County, Wisconsin.
The Rankinen's took in boarders and did odd jobs to make a living such as woodcutting, etc. It was merely subsistence-level farming and did not expand into anything much greater than keeping the needs of it's occupants satisfied according to a brochure that we picked up at Old World Wisconsin.
As can be seen in the photo below the children living in this particular house had dolls with which to play.
Old fashioned games of many sorts would have been played outside in the fresh air and sunshine and other games would have kept occupants entertained inside as well.
Storytelling was an art form and would have passed along fables as well as family history to generation after generation. There were no television sets or video games or computers or text messaging to consume a person's time. Imagine that!
After the hard work of harvesting and preserving of the foods would have taken place, community barn dances would have been organized and looked forward to with great anticipation during the year.
Musically inclined individuals would have been playing instruments in the homes, churches and other events where many individuals could have lifted their voices in songs to suit the occasion or kept pace to the rhythm of the music with tapping toes or the latest dances.
Times may have been simple but the days were filled with not only work but good hearted fun as well.
Beautifying these farmsteads was also accomplished as time permitted.
Rugs would have been made to warm and embellish the floors.
Embroidery would have added pretty detailing to curtains or clothing.
In the picture below look at the "Remembrance crock" on the top of this piece of furniture.
Bits of broken but treasured china would gradually be added to this crock which would ultimately become a family heirloom.
I'll leave you with a photo of one of the oldest buildings, that of the Fossebrekke House which was built in Newark of Rock County in 1841.
This tiny pioneer homestead stands in the Norwegian area of Old World Wisconsin where the 1896 Raspberry School and the 1848 Kvaale farm house is also located.
The Fossebrekke's primarily grew wheat and did trapping for their livelihood.
Kettle Moraine State Forest
Located in the southern region of the gorgeous Kettle Moraine State Forest, Old World Wisconsin resides amidst the rolling and wooded hills of this scenic area.
There are nature trails which can take one from one historic building to the next, or for ease and also for time factors, one can take the provided trams which continually operate between the different sites.
From day camps to workshops or even barn dances, Old World Wisconsin can be enjoyed in a number of ways.
Located only 75 miles northwest of Chicago; 35 miles southwest of Milwaukee or 55 miles southeast of Madison, Old World Wisconsin is easily accessible to hundreds of thousands of people for an easy day trip away from home.
Pricing is certainly moderate costing $9 per child; $16 for adults; $14 for seniors and there is also a $43 family package for 2 adults and unlimited numbers of children at the time of this writing.
There are numerous other buildings not pictured or even listed in this post. For those interested in learning more, there are a number of links and videos provided which will give you a better idea of what visiting this great outdoor museum provides.
Thanks for taking the time to do some stepping back in time and viewing some of the pictures that I took on the day of our visit to this wonderful site which would be a joy to see during each and every season of the year. With over 60 structures and some 575 acres of land, the historic Old World Wisconsin has something to offer folks of all ages!
Old World Wisconsin
Does visiting Old World Wisconsin look like something you would like to do?
© 2010 Peggy Woods