Baraboo is the original headquarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus. In 1884 the five Ringling brothers presented their first circus extravaganza in Baraboo, and continued to winter there until 1918. The following year the Ringling brothers, who had in 1907 purchased the Barnum & Bailey Circus, consolidated their holdings and moved to the warmer climate of Florida. In 1959 the original headquarters in Baraboo became The Circus World Museum. The museum complex preserves the original structures; showcases an incomparable collection of circus wagons and memorabilia; and best of all, provides visitors with a nostalgic journey to a bygone era. Circus World Museum is owned by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and operated by Circus World Museum Foundation, a non-profit organization.
Aztalan is a prehistoric Native American archaeological site that is incorporated into Aztalan State Park located in southeastern Wisconsin. Archaeological evidence indicates that this was a stockaded village site, occupied between 1100-1300 AD. It is the largest site of its kind in Wisconsin, and is considered to be the northernmost extension of the Middle Mississippian culture group. In other words, attributes of this site were influenced by or similar to a group of prehistoric Native American sites located south of here in an area that covers the central Mississippi River Valley, the lower Ohio River Valley, and most of the Mid-South area, including western and central Kentucky, western Tennessee, and northern Alabama and Mississippi. These sites share many culture attributes including large ceremonial mounds, residential complexes that are sometimes enclosed by stockades or ramparts, extensive trade networks and advanced agricultural practices. The two major Middle Mississippian sites are Cahokia in Illinois and Moundville in Alabama.
Since Azatlan’s discovery in 1836, there has been intermittent archaeological activity, with the most important excavation in 1919. After the site became a state park in 1948, efforts were made to reconstruct parts of the ancient village. Today, visitors may tour this National Historic Landmark site and explore its partially restored stockade enclosure and famous mounds. Aztalan is open daily, April through October.
Villa Louis is considered to be one of the most authentic, restored Victorian-era mansions in the country. It was built in 1870 by the prominent Dousman family, descendants of a pioneering fur trader with John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. The Italianate-style mansion sits atop a mound in Prairie du Chien overlooking the Mississippi River. The site itself is steeped in history. It is the location of a Hopewellian mound, and at various times the French, British and Americans maintained a military presence here. Villa Louis has been meticulously restored to its Victorian décor and splendor. Many of the Dousman family’s original furnishings and artwork remain in the house. Visitors can browse through this house and marvel at the richly upholstered, ornate furniture, and countless statuettes, mirrors, chandeliers, candles and other opulent items that fill the spaces with Victorian excess. The site is owned and operated by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
Links: Villa Louis
New Glarus is one of those rare towns that have preserved a distinct historical character over a long period of time. In the case of New Glarus, that continuity may well be due to the fact that the town can trace its history directly back to the “old country.” The town of New Glarus was, in fact, founded in 1845 by immigrants from the original Glarus in Switzerland. Their immigration to the United States was prompted by a severe economic crisis in their highly industrialized Swiss canton. The immigrant party sent scouts ahead to locate suitable land, and they purchased 1,200 acres of land in the Little Sugar River Valley of Wisconsin. On August 15, 1845, 108 members of the original party arrived in New Glarus. The settlers built successful agricultural and cheese-making enterprises, and as the town prospered immigrants continued to arrive from Switzerland. As a result, cultural ties with Switzerland have been preserved, and you can hear the Swiss language on the streets of the town to this day. At New Glarus restaurants, you can dine on the fine Swiss cuisine, which features Schnitzel, Geschnetzelets, Swiss meatballs, and Roesti potatoes. The New Glarus skyline displays Swiss styles of architecture. In addition to enjoying the historical atmosphere of New Glarus, the town has two museums of special interest to historical travelers: the Swiss Historical Village and the Chalet of the Golden Fleece. The Swiss Historical Village, a replica pioneer village, is a 14-building complex displaying the history, artifacts, and wares of New Glarus’ early businesses and settlers. The Hall of History at the museum documents the immigration of New Glarus’ first settlers from Switzerland. The Chalet of the Golden Fleece houses the private collection gathered from around the world by Edwin Barlow, a local resident and founder of the Wilhelm Tell drama (a play about the Swiss hero performed annually in conjunction with the town’s Alpine Festival) in New Glarus. Barlow donated his home and collection to the village of New Glarus. Both museums provide daily tours by guides who are well versed in the cultural history of New Glarus. We recommend that you plan ahead so that you can take your time and enjoy everything that New Glarus has to offer.