For visitors to Milwaukee or SE Wisconsin, you may want to consider a short jaunt up to Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Located less than 30 minutes from downtown Milwaukee, Cedarburg is far enough out of the city to give you a flavor of what life in rural Wisconsin is like while also providing for a bit of the eclectic and historical.
The Village of Cedarburg was founded in 1845 as a number of mills were being built along Cedar Creek, which runs through the center of the city today. Today several of the old buildings built, including the Cedarburg Mill, Concordia Mill and Hilgen & Wittenberg Woolen Mill remain standing and are listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
The woolen mill dates back to 1864 and operated here for more than 100 years, until closing their doors in 1969. Three years later, the original main stone building was acquired and subsequently developed into the Cedar Creek Settlement, an eclectic group of shops including art galleries, antique stores and a winery. Many attribute Cedarburg's designation as a tourist destination to Jim Pape who created the Cedar Creek Settlement with the founding of the Stone Mill winery in 1972 and the expansion with retail shops and a restaurant in 1973 and 1974.
Washington Avenue is the main thoroughfare through the historical district and is worth exploring. If you continue north, you will come to another piece of Wisconsin history . . . the last covered bridge in the State of Wisconsin.
I have been fascinated with covered bridges since seeing my first one near my grandma's Georgia farm back in the 1960's. Of course the movie "The Bridges of Madison County" (Clint Eastwood & Meryl Streep) also stirred my interest, especially when we lived in Iowa several years ago.
The Cedarburg Covered Bridge was known as the "Red Bridge" and was built in 1876 with pine and oak timbers cut and milled near Baraboo, Wisconsin. They were hauled approximately 100 miles to the bridge location over Cedar Creek where workmen assembled the 120' long by 12' wide by 13' high bridge. The bridge is a lattice truce construction, which is considered to be very rare today.
If you look at the photos attached to this story, you will see the concrete support at the center of the bridge span. It was added in 1927 in order to provide the support necessary given the advent of the automobile and the additional weight the bridge had to withstand.
In 1962 the bridge was moved approximately 50 feet from its original location in order to build a more modern bridge which is still in use today for vehicle traffic in the area. The Cedarburg Covered Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 14, 1973.
This area around the bridge has been developed into a county park, with a footbridge crossing the creek approximately 20 yards from the original covered bridge. Picnic tables and port-a-potties make this a very nice location for a picnic lunch, cookout or hike.
I hope that visitors to Milwaukee will consider a day trip to Cedarburg! Throughout the year they host many events and festivals including the Strawberry Festival in late June that attracts visitors from a four state area. Other special events include the Winter Festival (February), Cedar Creek Settlement Festival (March), Fall & Harvest Festival (September) and German Festival/Oktoberfest (October).
For more information on Historic Cedarburg including lodging, dining and other activities, check out their website at www.cedarburg, org.