Genuine Northwest, Holiday/Winter Edition

Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.

Woodstock Civil War Monument

Historic Woodstock Square, off Benton and Jackson streets, Woodstock

After years of raising money to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, the 223rd Woman’s Relief Corps in Woodstock established a monument on the Square in 1909.

On the day of dedication, a celebration known nationally as Decoration Day, the Woman’s Relief Corps joined with members of the Grand Army of the Republic – a fraternal organization of Civil War veterans – to remember their hometown’s heroes.

In part, Woodstock’s monument pays homage to the “Woodstock Rifles,” a regiment of local men who fought in the Civil War. The company was led by Captain Merritt L. Joslyn, an early Woodstock politician.

The granite sculpture was composed by local monument maker Anthony Zoia and stands 25 feet tall. Atop the long spire is a Union soldier, rifle in both hands, staring stoically into the distance. The base is decorated with the symbols of the Army’s four branches: an anchor, crossed rifles, sabers and cannon.

Stone slabs surrounding the monument list communities in McHenry County and those who were killed in service during the Civil War.

The monument was repaired in 2015 after years of fundraising. At that time, the soldier’s damaged rifle was replaced and Vermont granite was used to sculpt a new anchor.

Historic Piano Factory Bridge, St. Charles

Fox River, off Indiana Street and Ohio Avenue, south of Illinois, St. Charles

In the early 1900s, the Cable Piano Co. was a busy center of manufacturing in downtown St. Charles. Its location along First Street and the Fox River, just south of Indiana Street, attracted as many as 500 employees, many of them women and residents of the city’s east side. Because so many workers walked to the factory, Cable Piano built a bridge for a shorter commute.

The Cable Piano Co. started in Chicago and expanded to St. Charles in 1901. At its height, the building produced as many as 35 pianos daily, including Wellington and Kingbury uprights and Eureka player pianos. The Great Depression greatly reduced demand for pianos and the St. Charles factory was closed in 1937. Howell Manufacturing Co. took over soon after and began producing cast iron items as well as chrome-plated tubular furniture. It closed in the early 1980s. 

In 1986, the building became the Piano Factory Outlet Mall and housed several clothing and houseware stores until 2000, when it was torn down. Today, businesses and townhomes stand on the site. 

The steel through-truss bridge, first built for factory workers, today conveys foot traffic – though, according to the St. Charles History Museum, the occasional car has been known to find its way across.

U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship

Downtown Lake Geneva, Wis.,

Lake Geneva’s 26th annual Winterfest will run Feb. 3-7, 2021, its centerpiece being the 36th U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship. Fifteen top-talent teams from around the nation will compete for a national title. Last year’s winning team was from Vermont.

Since the entire competition is open to the public, visitors can watch artists at work as they shape 3-ton, 10-foot-high cylinders of snow into fabulous works of art using only hand tools. The public can vote for a People’s Choice winner on Saturday.

Other Lake Geneva Winterfest fun includes a downtown ice sculpture tour, s’mores and bonfires on the beach, music, ice skating, horse-drawn carriage rides and lots of family-friendly activities.

In Illinois, Rockford Park District will host teams from around the state for the Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition Jan. 20-23, at Sinnissippi Park. Visitors can watch the artists at work and there’s no admission fee. Teams sculpt from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and may work through the night on Friday. The public can cast votes for the People’s Choice award Saturday from 8:30 to 11 a.m. All winners will be announced on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Sinnissippi Park maintenance building. Last year, two teams from Illinois were among the 15 finalist teams who went on to the Nationals in Lake Geneva.