Day Trip: Kenosha (History focus)
Local history along Lake Michigan's shoreYour tour guide: Meridith Jumisko, Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Located in Wisconsin's southeast corner on the Lake Michigan shore, the Kenosha area offers a variety of attractions to fit many interests. Local history is just one possible theme for a fun day trip. Bring the entire family, make it an outing for two, or invite your friends to explore Kenosha's roots.
Begin by walking the streets of Kenosha's four National Register Historic DistrictsLibrary Park, Third Avenue, Civic Center and Pearl Streetto catch a glimpse of life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you have an appreciation for architecture or history, don't miss traversing the neighborhoods where the city's early pioneers lived and, in some cases, worked. Learn about the beautiful historic homes, buildings and landmarks that have been preserved in Kenosha.
See a statue of Abraham Lincoln, the Kenosha County Soldier's Monument ("Winged Victory"), and a miniature Statue of Libertyall in Kenosha's historic districts! Witness a variety of architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Georgian Revival, Gothic Revival and Neo-Classical Revival.
Visit the site of an Underground Railroad station and see the house where the legendary actor, writer and director Orson Welles was born. To plan your walking tour, download a tour guide at the Web site of the Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; look under " Things to See & Do: History & Museums."
You'll find the Kemper Center in the Third Avenue Historic District. This is a 17.5-acre Kenosha County Park on Lake Michigan. It includes a simple Prairie Chapel, St. Mary's Convent, the Kemper Hall campus, Anderson Arts Center and a renovated Conference Center. Durkee Mansion is also located here. This restored and furnished Victorian mansion is the former home of Charles Durkee, Wisconsin's Civil War era senator. It is open for tours on the weekends from April through October.
You can board Kenosha's electric streetcar for a ride through the Civic Center Historic District, which includes the Dinosaur Discovery Museum. From 1903 to 1932, electric rail was a regular mode of transportation in Kenosha. Today, five beautifully restored electric streetcars provide a scenic tour of the Lake Michigan shoreline. The two-mile loop electric streetcar connects the Civic Center Historic District, downtown business district, the picturesque lakefront neighborhood called HarborPark, Southport Marina, Veterans Memorial Park, the METRA train station and the Rhode Center for the Arts. This historic building, built in 1891, is home to Lakeside Players, a live community theater group, as well as the Pollard Gallery.
The streetcar will also take you to the Kenosha Public Museum and the Civil War Museum, both located in the heart of HarborPark. The Kenosha Public Museum, a natural history, fine and decorative arts museum, has a replica of the Hebior mammoth, the largest and most complete mammoth ever excavated in North America. Also on display are the Schaefer mammoth bones, which have been dated at 12,500 years old, showing that humans were in the Americas 1,000 years earlier than previously believed. Both mammoths were unearthed in Kenosha County. Learn about the history, the people and the stories of the Upper Middle West before, during and after the Civil War at the Civil War Museum.
Across the harbor is the Kenosha History Center. Here, see how Kenosha County developed and grew from settlement to 1900, and how Kenosha's auto-making legacy shaped its history through the 20th century.
Located beside the Kenosha History Center is the Southport Light Station Museum. You can climb the historic, restored 1866 lighthouse during select months. Opening in 2010, the light station's Keepers Dwelling features the maritime history of Kenosha County. Nearby is the 50-foot-tall Pierhead Lighthouse, built in 1906.
These day trip suggestions are just a taste of the excitement that awaits you. Have fun exploring Kenosha's history! For more information about attractions, events, lodging and dining in the Kenosha area, call 800-654-7309 or visit the Web site of the Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Note: This article is one of two Day Trip stories about Kenosha. For an alternate trip that focuses on visual arts, read this article by Melanie Hovey of Lemon Street Gallery & Artspace, Inc.