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Wade House Is a Horse-Drawn Ride Back In Time

By Pamela Sosnowski

Visiting Wade House in Greenbush may make one feel like they're on the set of a period film. In addition to the sprawling 27-room Greek Revival-style hotel, the property also features a working sawmill, blacksmith shop, and stagecoaches, all manned by employees in historical costumes. But make no mistake; this is an authentic living museum with roots stretching back to the 19th century. Today it's a popular tourist destination operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

"Set upon 240 rolling acres within the northern reaches of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wade House Historic Site offers guests an opportunity to escape a fast-paced lifestyle and travel back in time to the era of stagecoach travel," Bridgitt Zielke, manager of marketing and public programs said. "A visit to the site provides an educational leisure experience."

Visitors can tour the Wade House Stagecoach Hotel, see the water-powered sawmill in action, watch blacksmiths hammer horseshoes, and enjoy a horse-driven wagon ride. Because the hotel was a popular stop for weary travelers back in its heyday, the site features numerous stagecoaches that travel along its plank roads as well as a collection of horse-drawn vehicles in the Wesley W. Jung Carriage Museum.

"The wonder of Wisconsin's largest collection of carriage and wagons awaits each visitor to the state-of-the-art 20,000 square-foot carriage museum," Zielke said. "Wade House is an excellent place to discover the world of plank road stagecoach travel, horse-drawn transportation, and mid-19th-century settlement and town building."

The centerpiece of the grounds, Wade House, was built in the 1840s by Sylvanus and Betsey Wade, a Yankee couple that was among the area's earliest settlers. Their three-story hotel, constructed along a travel-heavy trail, also became a popular location for political caucuses and business meetings. After the site passed through three generations of the Wade family, it was eventually deeded to the Wisconsin Historical Society in the 1950s by then-owner Ruth DeYoung Kohler, whose late sister-in-law had restored the main building to its original glory.

Wade House as a tourist attraction opened to the public in 1953. The Wesley W. Jung Carriage Museum was added in the late 60s. In 2013, a 38,000 square-foot LEED-certified visitor center opened, featuring orientation exhibits, a gift shop, café, and meeting rental space. Throughout the year Wade House hosts special events including its annual Civil War weekend, sleigh rides, pioneer day camp, and more. In February the museum presented a Heartside Dinner event in which guests prepared their meal over an open-hearth fire just as Mrs. Wade did 150 years ago.

After taking in all of the tours, visitors are welcome to explore the grounds via a boardwalk and walking trail that connects the visitor center to the hotel, as well as nearby hiking trails in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, and enjoy a bite to eat in the Butternut Café. Wade House also makes an idyllic setting for weddings. According to Zielke, there's no shortage of distinctive event spaces including lush meadows, lawns, and the carriage pavilion.

The property is open year-round, but the summer season, May through October, is when all attractions are open to explore. No matter the occasion for visiting, a trip to Wade House provides an opportunity to travel back in time, if even for a day, to experience a simpler time in America's history.

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