Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ottawa, IL to Moline, IL on US Route 6

Bedroom in Reddick Mansion
Ottawa, IL

Reddick Mansion
Ottawa, IL

Ahhhh.  So much more like it.  Started the morning in historic downtown Ottawa, a town of 18,400 that takes its history seriously.  I began in Washington Park – a strange name for the place where Abraham Lincoln first deliberated with Douglas in the presidential debates on Aug. 31, 1858. There’s a wonderful bronze depiction of this first debate in the center of a meticulously maintained town park.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate Statues
Ottawa, IL
Mural in downtown Ottawa, IL
The Italianate-Style Reddick Mansion is right on the park square, and I spent 45 minutes touring it with a lively, articulately knowledgeable guide.  Known to be frugal – William Reddick farmed in his bare feet to save on shoe leather -  with fortunes made in dry goods and real estate, his house is anything but chintzy.  When William died in 1889, he left an estate of $300,000 – enough to establish a “Free” library in his former living quarters.  The library remained there until 1974, when a very active preservation society was determined to restore the home to the way it would have looked in 1875.  Original grained pocket doors, ornate plaster ceiling, carved marble fireplaces, and shutters are all still intact. While serving his first term in the State Senate, Reddick was instrumental drawing Lincoln to Ottawa, IL to debate Douglas, and though he was a Douglas-supporting Democrat, Reddick inclined more towards Lincoln’s way of thinking about slavery in the United States.  Like Lincoln, he was against it.

A strong Abolitionist thread runs through this area of the country, as I discovered on my 100 mile trek today on Route 6. 

Scouting Museum
Ottawa, IL
But there was one more museum to see before I left Ottawa; the Scouting Museum. I was a Girl Scout and my kids spent time as Boy Scouts, so it was somewhat of a nostalgia trip. The founder of the Boy Scouts of America, W.D. Boyce, lived in Ottawa, IL and this charming little glass-case museum tells his story.  Boyce, a Chicago publisher, was lost in bad fog while traveling in England.  An English Scout found him and helped him out, and when Boyce offered him money the young lad said, “No, I’m a Scout.  We must do a Good Turn Every Day.”  Boyce returned home with a new mission.  He founded the Boys Scouts in 1910. Two rooms are stocked with old Scouting guides, Pinewood Derby boards, mounted knots, uniforms on mannequins, and loads of other scouting stuff.  It was worth the $3 and few minutes I spent reliving my badge-acquiring days.

I&M Canal Visitors Center
A breath of fresh air
LaSalle, IL

I&M Canal Lock # 16
LaSalle, IL
Out of Ottawa, farmland was lush and homes appeared better kept-up.  I crossed over I39, got to LaSalle, turned left off of 6 to the I&M Canal Lock # 16; the rusted vestige of a once-busy waterway which floated goods and people between Chicago and small farming towns to the south. By the 1850’s trains replaced the canal as transport and the canal fell into neglect. Now, it’s a tourist attraction (the canal was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963 and the 1st National Heritage Corridor in 1984) where you can take a ride on a mule-driven canal boat for $14, $8 for kids.  The Canal Lock Visitor’s Center in town was my bright spot du jour.  I’d been without decent internet for days, and not only did the Center have a terrific café (better-than-Starbucks coffee, excellent paninis and lunch items) in attractive new surroundings, but they offered FREE and FAST wifi.  I sat munching on a great vegie sandwich while updating my blog.  Bliss! You can purchase your Canal Boat tickets there, or pick something up at the great gift shop.  And – the boutique-like tile bathrooms are worth mentioning.  A fine place all around.

Dave Bartley, City Clerk
Peru, IL
In the neighboring town of Peru (pronounced “pru”), I stopped to see City Clerk, Dave Bartley.  He’d emailed an invite, and I took him up on it.  Dave is a busy guy; he takes care of everyone’s problems with a smile on his face.  He gave me a “green” Peru cap – the town generates about 75% of residential usage from its own Hydro-Electric plant. Nice to meet you, Dave!

As I moved west, I discovered that corn grown here plays a part in our county’s energy production.

In Wyanet, I stopped at an odd little (closed) Henry Thomas Museum.  A plaque outside stated that Henry Thomas was the “first permanent white settler of Bureau County in 1828 and the parent of first white child born 1830.”  It made me wonder about the indigenous people and what they thought about white Thomas. 

At Blackburns Roadhouse – on a Route 6 intersection in Annawan – I first learned about the sport of Rolle-Bolle (pronounced Roly Bowly), brought to this area of Illinois by Belgian families.  Sort of like Bocce, you roll a disc, edgewise, on a rolle bolle course.  There’s a World Rolle Bolle Competition around here in July if anyone is interested.

Feedbag Apron at Emma's Bloomers
Annawan, IL
Car-Relic Even Space TBD
Annawan, IL
Blackburns is your typical beer at the crossroads kind of place with buffets, Saturday DJ Karaoke, and local characters.  Local booster, Cathy Foes, showed me some other Annawan institutions; The Purple Onion Café (typical fare, owned by three generations of women), Emma’s Bloomers – a cute florist and gift shop with great unusual items even this jaded writer here enjoyed (I had my eye on a locally-made Feedsack Apron for $36), and a soon to be opened event space with a crazy-sick amount of road memorabilia, restored cars, and related antiques owned by car nut Lynn Williams.
Lisa and Ted Brants
Lisa's Place
Atkinson, IL

Jim Sorenson
Atkinson, IL
A few miles down the road in Atkinson, hog-maven, Charlie Lotridge met me at Lisa’s Place; yet another café.  But this one was in the old Livestock Auction House, and hadn’t changed a dang  (except for owners) since it opened in the mid-70’s.  Ted and Lisa Brants run this restaurant where Charlie’s father-in-law used to buy his hogs.  Town memory bank, Jim Sorenson used to own this place when it was called the Chicago-Atkinson Livestock Yard.  Built in 1965, it once sent thousands of hogs all over the US; Sorenson’s biggest day, he recollects, was “4,620 pigs through here.”  Now, the sales ring is no more.  They use the place to fatten up the cattle.  And people.  Get a gander at Ted and Lisa’s best selling cinnamon rolls – larger than a dinner plate!

Old Time Barber Shop
Atkinson, IL
Charlie informed me that Henry County produces 35 million bushels of corn a year which yields 100 million gallons of Ethenol – the new alternative fuel.  The Ethenol Plant right outside of Annawan is “like the Emerald City at 5am,” said Lisa Brants.  No wonder there’s so much soy and corn farmed here.  Need for ethanol has driven corn costs up from $3.50 a bushel to $7 in the past few years; good news for corn growers, bad news for livestock farmers and other end users. 

Atkinson has a tiny Historical Museum open whenever William Freddy is called upon to do so.  It preserves military and school items (the Atkinson school was folded into the larger district schools) and mostly of interest to locals. But the barbershop next door is a blast from the past with stand-alone sink in the middle of the room and original advertising mirrors.

Downtown Geneseo, IL
Lincoln Artifacts
Geneseo Historical Museum
Geneseo, IL

Underground Railroad Hiding Spot
Geneseo Historical Museum
Geneseo, IL
On to Geneseo a few miles down the road, where a kind and warm Karen Mowers of the Geneseo Chamber of Commerce was my guide. Geneseo was founded by Protestant Abolitionists – pioneers on the wagon trains from New York – who were drawn here by promises of plentiful land at a good price (the community remains church-centered).  Downtown is beautifully landscaped and well-tended; a town clearly loved by its residents. First stop – the over-the-top three story Geneseo Historical Museum; one of the most creative and adoringly curated historical museums I’ve seen so far. Set within a grand 1855 split home occupied by two brothers, the place is room after room of donated antiques set up like mini-dioramas.  There’s a working pump in the kitchen sink (a particular favorite of school groups), period dresses used by local performers, and in the basement – a documented hiding place for the Underground Railroad. While renovating the home, workers found candles, matches and arsenic behind a brick wall – all indications that this teeny space hid slaves.

Handmade Saw Clock
C&S Antique Mall
Geneseo, IL

As long as I was looking at antiques, I headed to C&S Antique Mall (on Route 6). Owned by Cindy and Steve Hancock, C&S features 55 dealers in adorably laid out stalls – each with his/her own focus.  Games, beer signs, housewares, jewelry – all here at prices MUCH lower than you’d find in East Coast antique places.  Cindy said that she actually sells to dealers all over the county.  It’s worth a look-see if you can’t live without that Coca Cola ice chest or rusted school locker ($250).

Geneseo Mayor Linda VanDerLeest
at the Cellar Restaurant
Geneseo, IL
I had dinner at The Cellar with the mayor of Geneseo – the gregarious and town-proud Linda VanDerLeest, who also serves as School Counselor at the district High School - along with Karen and her husband.  The Cellar is a white-tablecloth, glassed-in kitchen, local-art-on-walls fine dining eatery – a favorite of many here. The Fish Fry at $10.95 includes sides and salad – we’re definitely out of the East Coast now!  Nothing “gourmet” or fancy here – just very good food and awesome service at reasonable prices.  The place was packed! 

After dinner, I was off to Moline and the "Quad Cities."  More on that in the next post. 

1 comment:

  1. very cool. thanks for setting up.


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