For a getaway weekend that includes historic homes, rural Wisconsin sights, and a tour of a barn remodeled into a home, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Cooksville, Wisconsin.
It feels like there is a fountain of youth hidden near the Cooksville Farmhouse Inn in southern Wisconsin. Perhaps it’s in the streams, grassy paths, and colorful wildflowers in the 10 acre prairie just behind the house. Or it’s in the big old country farmhouse that instantly feels like home. Or maybe it’s just breathing in the fresh country air, in a town time forgot.
The owners, Bob and Martha Degner probably think it comes from hard work, as they are the ones who restored the prairie and remodeled the original red barn on the property into living quarters for them. But I think it’s something about spending a relaxing, quiet weekend in the county, without a care in the world, that makes a person feel like they may live forever. (Or hope to anyway.)
While searching for a getaway weekend destination that was close to home, along with something to do that would appeal to my husband, myself, and my 80 year old parents, I came across Evansville, Wisconsin. Billed as “an attractive New England like small town”, it offered self-guided walking tours of it’s 172 historic houses and buildings, built between 1840-1915. My parents love anything historic and we all love to walk, so this sounded perfect. Plus it’s just over an hour’s drive from home, (two hours from Chicago), and 25 minutes south of Madison Wisconsin, so we wouldn’t be spending the entire weekend in the car.
Below: Evansville, Wisconsin
I knew that area was also home to a large collection of barn quilts. Barn quilts, for those of you who have not heard of them, are brightly colored quilt blocks painted on a large piece of wood and displayed on the side of a barn or sometimes a local business. I had a map and figured we could drive around looking for those, if we got tired of walking, or in case of rain.
A search for hotels led me to The Cooksville Farmhouse Inn. Built in 1850, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this place seemed to be in keeping with the theme of the weekend, old houses and quilts. The Inn’s website listed quilts on the beds, a fireplace, and original restored fir plank floors, with modern comforts like air conditioning, ceiling fans, wiifi, and a Keurig coffeemaker. The owners live on the property, in the barn next to the farmhouse.
The kitchen is fully stocked with dishes, cookware, dishtowels, and even pens and pads of paper. It comes with everything you need, besides food. Bring your own.
There is also a large library for guests as well as menus for local restaurants and travel brochures for surrounding areas.
One of two large sitting areas. On the opposite side of the fireplace is another with picture windows overlooking the prairie.
The 100 year old barn has been restored and remodeled as living quarters for the owners, along with a mother-in-law apartment. In the farmhouse where we were staying, I found a notebook full of the history of the property, the owners, and the remodeling process. I was pleasantly surprised to read they were more than happy to give their guests a tour, and to just to knock on their door. This ended up being the most fascinating part of the entire weekend. I had never been in a barn that was turned into a house before.
Below: Looking out a large trapezoid picture window from the barn’s uppermost level is the front view of the entrance to the property.
We also toured the town of Cooksville, a small rural community of 35 historic houses and about twice that many people. Known as “the town time forgot” by the locals, the town seems to be the same now as it was in the mid 1800’s when most of the houses were built. We enjoyed walking around and looking at the houses with a booklet describing each property, kindly left for us in the farmhouse.
There is no place to shop or eat in Cooksville, except for one General Store. However Evansville is only a 7 minute drive, and has both.
Whether walking through Cooksville and it’s historic houses of the early 1800’s, or touring Evansville with it’s brick streets, old buildings, and lovingly restored homes, or walking through the unspoiled natural prairie in the back of the Farmhouse Inn, the weekend made us all feel recharged and refreshed.
Several months after we visited, I read on the Cooksville Farmhouse Inn blog that owner’s mother (who lives in the barn in the mother-in-law apartment) turned 100 years old! Maybe there is a fountain of youth somewhere in Cooksville after all. If not, you may at least feel younger after a weekend of relaxing in this rural Wisconsin retreat.