Wednesday, September 15, 2010

living history.

We are lucky to live only 50 miles from the largest living history museum in the US (and one of the largest in the world). Old World Wisconsin is a favorite fall day trip - we like to go when school starts, as we get almost 600 acres pretty much all to ourselves, with full re-enactment staff!

We love to explore - not only visiting each farm and finding out what traditions, crafts, and architecture people brought to Wisconsin in the 1800's from their 'home' countries, but also to have a day out in the sunshine, walking the trails, just being outside in the woods all day long. This time of year we can also see the leaves starting to turn.

This museum has many traditional farms setup - spread out over hundreds of acres. So each farm you visit is a whole experience. Wisconsin was settled by many people - Danish, German, Norwegian, and Finnish, to name a few.

Each farm has a real historical home that has been re-located to this outdoor museum, with stories of the original families who lived there, and each home has someone 'living' there who is busy on the farm...milking the cow, doing the wash, baking pies, working in the full garden, cooking dinner, spinning or weaving, and of course chatting with visitors. My guys love finding out about who lived there, what they slept on, what they ate, and what 'chores' the kids had back then (kids had to work!). ;)

The fun part is of course it is a living history museum - so we get to participate in many things, and not just watch...both boys especially love the blacksmith where they get to fan the flames.

The farms also have animals to visit - cows, chickens, oxen, horses, sheep, and one very big friendly pig.

The museum also has a one room schoolhouse, a town with several shops and a blacksmith, and a town hall full of vintage games and toys. Our favorite there has always been the tops and of course stilts and hoop and stick. We always spend a long time there, so do that last.

This visit we were in the kids activity area at closing time, and the boys were asked to help retire the flag for the day (oh, such excitement!). They took their job very seriously, and helped bring it down, fold, and put away.

While we love love love to walk most of the time, there is a tram to ride between areas - it is almost 600 acres after all - which is always a nice way to chill out and let the boys sit for a few.

One thing that was very different this trip is that in June this museum was hit by a tornado. The tornado flattened hundreds (thousands?) of trees, wiping out big swaths of forest, and damaging some buildings.

While it is amazing that the tornado primarily hit the parking and entrance areas and left most of the historical buildings in tact (and all farm animals survived), it is still quite shocking to drive in and see the damage, even a few months later. We did see photos and video of the damage after the tornado (and the aerial views, wow), but it of course isn't the same as seeing it in person. There were times we just stood with our mouths open at the mountains of broken trees which are still being trucked out - and the boys hugged and climbed on the stump remaining from their favorite tree, where we used to sit and have lunch.

We always learn so much, and not just about the past...

What a wonderful day!


flowtops said...

Sounds like a lovely trip!

Stephanie said...

We discovered ours just this year, and had a wonderful time (every time)li, as you probably know.
Looks like a most excellent day!!

Sally said...

oh denise, this looks like a wonderful place!! thank you for giving us a peek!

Tara said...

So glad you all get to enjoy this fabulous place without the crush of people!

Your pictures of the interiors are great :0)

se7en said...

Oh Awesome day!!! That just looks like time well spent - You reminded me that I need to get out of our house - WAY OUT!!!

Tonya Gunn said...

Oh, I need to put this on our trip list! I just love the old mercantile shops (I have a secret desire to open one just like the old fashioned ones.)
Thanks for sharing.
Warm wishes, Tonya

Dawn said...

That looks like such an amazing place! I'm glad the tornado didn't hurt the historical buildings or animals. If I ever make it to Wisconsin, I want to go there.

Pure Ella said...

What a great laid back trip ;)

mamaraby said...

So much fun! I found out about Old World Wisconsin through your blog last year. We've been back several times since then and had such a blast! We're even entering the pie contest for the Old World County Fair this weekend. I just love that place, but I must say I miss the trees!

Did you get a membership? We're thinking about the Wisconsin Historical Society Membership next year so that we can go to the other living history sites across the state for free as well. We have our eyes on Stonefield and the train weekend next year.

Not surprisingly we're big tram fans here as well. My oldest has taken to making his own trams with his bike and several wagons.

Chris said...

I had no idea about this place. It would probably only take us three hours or so to drive there. Maybe we'll get a hotel room sometime and make a weekend out of it.

We have a much smaller version of a living farm near here that has a mom's chore day and a dad's chore day where people can help out with those farm activities throughout the day.

Cate said...

lucky you! i love so many of the images- especially the kitchen/pantry and the, well, i'm just guessing it is the general store or the tailor's shop or something.

and the best thing? almost nobody else there. must have been magical!

kelly said...

Looks just fantastic.

We've been to a Saxon village, a Viking Village and a Roman villa but nothing on this scale.

May be one day...

Barbara said...

How wonderful. We may have to take a trip there someday!

Angie said...

I too am a wisconsin mom, but up North, Cornucopia up by Bayfield. I love historical places such as these. When it is a hands on experience, they seem to remember it all so much more and attach meaning to the experience when they encounter reading about it later. This summer we went through Mackinaw City Michigan and they have two historical forts, one on the mainland and one on the island. We learned about the fur trade, the British and the daily lives of living in the forts. Now, when we read about anything from that era, they remember the forts and refer back to the experience. Come visit my blog some time at