The 10 Wisconsin Historical Sites That One Must Visit (2024)
To appreciate the present of Wisconsin, a look into its past will never harm. Wisconsin became an American state on 29 May 1848. Till then and even after, it has seen various communities and several reforms. The State isn’t pretty old, but it houses archaeological sites dating to 1000 A.D. Weird enough but still true. Wisconsin is a state full of rich and varied history. Some of which is proved and researched, while others are still a matter of mystery. Once you try to explore any of them, the landmarks will illustrate what the State was and how it evolved.
Wisconsin as a state is home to various named and unnamed historical sites. While the list goes long, most of them are truly explorable and worth it. Some historical sites in Wisconsin require you to take a walk inside four walls, while some offers you a historic train ride outdoor. However, whatever it is, one thing here is assured, and that is entertainment. With that said, let’s get into a little more insight into Wisconsin’s past.
The 10 Wisconsin Historical Sites That One Must Visit
Have a look at our choicest picks for the most popular Historical sites in Wisconsin:
1. Mid-Continent Railway Museum (North Freedom)
Mid-Continent Railway Museum is a living history museum settled nicely in an outdoor setting. Today it beautifully explains the Golden Age of railroading. Everything here, from the ticket station to the train car warehouse, is antique, preserved, and absolutely incredible. While most of the things here are free, you may have to pay a hefty ticket price for some. The best part about being in this railway museum is its 7-mile round trip in one preserved railroad car. Sitting in an old-style train and observing the scenery around is definitely one of the fine experiences to have. Though avoid train ride during harsh summers as with no availability of air conditioner, you may sweat down.
2. Little White School House (Ripon)
Little White School House is exactly what its name suggests. Listed as a National Historic Landmark, it today serves as a historical museum in Wisconsin. In its time (back in 1854), this schoolhouse played the main role in birthing the Republican Party. Back then, 54 Rippons gathered to form a new anti-slavery party. Today, the museum beautifully explains its role in establishing the grant Republican Party. One of the major steps of this party was to abolish slavery, and thus, regardless of any political interest, visitors take pride in being here. It may be just a small school building from the outside, but it is a historical treasure from the inside.
3. Circus World (Baraboo)
For Circus lovers, being at the Circus World, Baraboo is surely one of the milestones. It is basically a museum complex dedicated to circus-related history. Inside the building exhibits artifacts and other preservable from circuses of the world and beyond. Even the famous Barnum & Bailey circus and the Ringling Brothers circus got their very first start here. Circus World operated for 34 years from 1884 through 1918, becoming the largest circus enterprise ever in the world. Visitors today can explore the museum or even stay back and watch a circus show. Circus World operates a live circus twice a day (every day). Plan at least for half a day as there is so much to observe and do here.
4. Aztalan State Park
Located between Johnson Creek and Lake Mile Aztalan are an archaeological site and a state park. What makes it historically important is the fact that it contains the ruins and artifacts of an ancient American village. This village is known to thrive here back in from 1000 to 1300 AD. Settlers then built several large mounds and a defensive stockade ruin of which are still to be seen. After 1300 AD, the site was abandoned for 200 years before Columbo visited America. The reason for the same is still unknown and a matter of mystery. Today while exploring the site, one can find age-old bones and artifacts in the form of possessions of the hundreds of people who lived here. From both archaeological and historical perspectives, there’s so much to learn here.
5. Old World Wisconsin (Eagle)
Old World Wisconsin offers one of the most authentic and engaging historical experiences in the State. It is basically an open-air museum that exhibits the daily life of 19th century Wisconsin settlers. The site today comprises over 60 historic structures. Some of them were moved, some dismantled, while others reassembled. The entire area basically recreates homes, gardens, farms, old age craft, and other traditions from the 1800s. For adding to the experience, you can see costumed interpreters portraying authenticity through their performances. They still churn butter by hands, oxen still plug the cornfields, and a blacksmith still operates there. Thus, visiting Old World Wisconsin is definitely a must for anyone who wants to travel back in time and re-live it for a while.
6. Ten Chimneys (Waukesha)
Once a summer home, the Ten Chimneys today serves as a public museum. Being at this National historical landmark is definitely like a tour of a lifetime. Back in time, this estate was built by Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, the Broadway legends. Today the museum serves the mission of progressing arts, theatre arts, and art education. The general public and even the famous actors visit here, considering it as a pilgrim for artists. It is located only a 45-minute drive away from Milwaukee, and it requires nearly 2 hours to explore and live the experience inside. You can either take a house tour or opt for a full estate tour. From every single room to every element of the estate, there associates a different story with each of them. Most of the things here are unchanged after their owner’s death, and thus to the modern eye, things here may seem a bit quirky.
7. Pabst Mansion (Milwaukee)
Pabst is a beautiful mansion in Milwaukee which also grabs a position in the list of National Historical landmarks. The mansion is a jeweled possession from the bygone era and for any history buff. It originally belonged to Captain Frederick Pabst, the famous brewmaster of Wisconsin. Pabst and his wife collected timeless treasures and art pieces throughout their lifetime, and today you can observe each of them here. One of the other aspects will engage you throughout the 66 rooms, 76 stairs, 14 fireplaces, and 12 baths. Tours here operate in the name of happy home tours, fine arts tours, mimosa tours, and more. Even though these tours exhibit 3 floors full of history, it is still a fraction of the entire mansion.
8. Fort Crawford Military Hospital (Prairie du Chien)
The Fort Crawford Military Hospital is one of the most strategic army builts of the time. Initially, in the 19th century, it operated as a hospital, then a place to study medicine, and eventually, in the 20th century, it turned into a museum. Today it is operating as a historical site that narrates stories of the people who once worked here. Here you can visit a recreated dental office from 1900 and an 1850 doctor’s office. On the same ground lies another museum exhibiting the history of Prairie du Chien. Fort Crawford is unusual but definitely a well-curated and visit-worthy museum in Wisconsin.
9. Forest Home Cemetery
A historic rural cemetery, the Forest home cemetery is one of Wisconsin’s historical sites that you cannot afford to miss. This priceless treasure is spread over 200 beautiful acres letting rest several notables in its adobe. From famous actors to five former governors, renowned businesses, and several other big names of Wisconsin are resting their final journey here. Exploring the site from inside isn’t difficult at all. Either use a map and walk around the gravestones and memorials. Or opt for one of the nine splendid tours offered here and learn about the site. You will also come across the Hall of History, where you can learn about the accomplishment of every single person buried here. And also, because it is a cemetery, being here is an absolutely peaceful experience.
10. First Capitol Historic Site (Belmont)
First Capitol is a historical museum and landmark right outside Belmont. Before Madison, Belmont was the first capital of Wisconsin. The museum you see today holds a special place in forming the framework of law and order that evolved Wisconsin and its governance. While you walk inside the buildings, you will encounter various interesting historical facts that you may not even have imagined. There are two buildings with informational, historical displays, though less but worth observing. Stopping here is definitely worth it for anyone interested in politics, history, or the Wisconsin territory.