School bells ringing, troops marching, salesmen chatting, and train whistles a-blowin’ – these are just a few of the sounds that hang on the wind in Boscobel, paying homage to the past. Located in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin, there are many historic places to visit here.
Due to its connection to the natural resources of the land and its proximity to the railroad, Boscobel became sewn into the fabric of American architecture, industry, and commerce.
First built in 1898, this architectural treat was constructed using limestone cut from surrounding area bluffs, forever tying it to its natural home. It was expertly designed by two popular Milwaukee architects, Henry Van Ryn and Gerrit Jacob DeGelleke, whose firm produces many historic building throughout Wisconsin and the surrounding states.
Van Ryn and DeGelleke employed a style known as Romanesque Revival, which was highly sought after around the turn-of-the-century. Their creative techniques of precise engineering earned this Boscobel landmark a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, which has cemented its local legacy.
Located on 207 Buchanan Street, the building was the home to Boscobel High School for many years, but is currently used for elementary students. Tours are, however, available by appointment – simply call 608-375-5006.
This integral part of historic Boscobel was built in 1857 and became the “heartbeat of the area.” Throughout its storied past, the Boscobel Depot (located on the 800 block of Wisconsin Ave) has served many purposes.
The most common, of course, was its use as an important hub of trade and commerce, supplying much needed supplies to the area, such as food and industrial goods. The railroad was also the most efficient form of transporting passengers during the 19th century, and provided a comfortable form of travel to neighboring Wisconsin towns.
During wartime, the Boscobel Depot Station was utilized for other purposes – organizing and enlisting in the military. This historic landmark was effectively used in this manner at the time of the Civil War, as well as both World Wars.
In modern times, the building has been recently restored and now hosts many locals and visitors alike as a walkable Turn-of-the-Century Railroad & Early Rural America Museum. At its front, you’ll find a tourist information center and tours are offered at select times throughout the week. For more information on tours, please call 608-375-2672 or 608-375-4165.
First known to locals as the Central House, the Boscobel Hotel was built in 1863 as a top lodging place to stay, bathe, and enjoy a warm meal. This nationally-registered, historic three-story building, constructed with native limestone, has global significance.
The year was 1898. Two traveling Christian salesmen arrived in Boscobel separately by train. As fate would have it, these two both arrived at Central House (1005 Wisconsin Avenue) in a shared room, as all the individual quarters had already been booked.
The men were John Nicholson of Janesville and Samuel Hill of Beloit. As they met in room 19 that day, Nicholson and Hill quickly discovered their common ground, first discussing the idea for the Christian Travelers’ Association – later famously known by another name: Gideon.
This group is responsible for the creation of the Gideons Travelers’ Bible, of which over a million copies have been printed and distributed in hotel rooms worldwide.
Although a formal meeting was never held here, the Gideons International recognizes the Boscobel Hotel as its official birthplace, and tours of this historic landmark are available by appointment. To schedule a time to visit, call 608-375-4164 or 608-375-7714.
Isn’t it time for a historic getaway? Even in the small, secluded town of Boscobel, there are multiple significant pieces of the Wisconsin narrative to be found. If you’re looking for a quiet place to enjoy the richness of the Driftless region, Boscobel does not disappoint.
Known as Wisconsin’s Outdoor Recreation Destination, this quaint river town boasts some of the greatest hunting, fishing, hiking, birdwatching, and paddling places in the state (not to mention the unique sandbar camping opportunities).
Take some time off that’s truly historic, and plan a refreshing trip to Boscobel that won’t soon be forgotten.