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Downtown Mineral Point

NOT A CORNISH HEN IN SIGHT
Mineral Point, Wisconsin

getaway-chicago logo It’s a hike, but it can be done. Mineral Point, Wis. is a good 3-½ hours away; making the round trip about seven and maybe more of a weekender and less of a day trip. (Not far from Spring Green and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, a Mineral Point-Taliesin combo trip might be a better fit for those disinclined to leave very early and return late in just one day.) The Getaway Guys did it in a day and still had fun.

mineralpoint1The discovery of lead in wild and wooly Wisconsin resulted in the Lead Rush of 1827-’28, but the stuff close to the surface quickly disappeared, which led to the arrival of folks from Cornwall, England with their deep mining skills in the early 1830’s. And along with their mining expertise, the Cornish brought their masonry skills which resulted in many duplications of Cornish domestic architecture in Mineral Point, thereby giving it much of its present character and interest.

The mineral deposits are gone, leaving in their wake an enduring fondness for pasties, limestone buildings reminiscent of Cornwall, England, narrow streets and a crazy quilt town layout. In their opinion Alan and Neil thought the ethnic Cornish connection was kept (mercifully) in its proper perspective; just enough to be faintly present. Unlike other preserved European enclaves where ethnic identity is served up with generous helpings of hokum, those responsible for the Point’s ongoing preservation efforts seem to be going in the right direction with their main emphasis on preservation, restoration and alternative use.

mineralpoint2For those like the Getaway Guys, who are warmed by stories of rehabilitation and alternative use, Mineral Point is a living example of what can be done to save a community’s architectural heritage and revitalize its social fabric at the same time. Among the many stories that make up Mineral Point saga, two stand out: the Grundy dwelling, Orchard Lawn (1868), for its dramatic, last minute rescue from the wrecking ball in 1939; and Pendarvis, the brain child of domestic partners Robert Neal and Edgar Hellum who, beginning in 1935, started their acquisition and restoration of Cornish cottages. (The Neal-Hellum story is an interesting tale within itself. Are these two directly or indirectly responsible for present day Mineral Point?)

mineralpoint3There’s no very direct way to Mineral Point. The Getaway Guys took I-94. Near Racine to I-90/39 south, then U.S. 12 & 18 west around Madison, where they picked up U.S. 18 & 151 into Mineral Point.

Mineral Point was one destination about which the Getaway Guys didn’t disagree. Everything they saw or experienced moved them equally. Alan’s favorite was Orchard Lawn and Neil’s a row of dilapidated limestone buildings not far from the restored Railway Depot. It was the off season (February) and the weather was iffy so extensive exploration beyond the town wasn’t an option on this trip. They had a simple, but nice lunch at The Red Rooster Café and noted for possible future overnight use lodgings at The Cothren House, Red Shutters Inn and Brewery Creek Inn. September 2006

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