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"Ten Chimneys, Lakeside Towns, Kettle Moraine"
Southern terminus: Kenosha County, at the Illinois state line near Trevor (continues south as Illinois 83)
Northern terminus: Washington County, at Highway 175 north of Hartford
Mileage: about 75 miles
Counties along the way: Kenosha, Racine, Walworth, Waukesha, Washington
Sample towns along the way: Salem, Paddock Lake, Burlington, Waterford, Mukwonago, Genesee Depot, Wales, Hartland, Hartford
Bypass alternates at: Burlington (under construction)
Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 83 connects numerous growing towns on the far west suburban areas of Milwaukee (and one might say the far northwest suburbs of Chicago, in the event of Kenosha County towns.) Along the way, main streets in the Wisconsin cities of Burlington, Hartford, Waterford and Mukwonago provide Main Street shopping; the Ten Chimneys area around Genesee Depot provide some history; the Kettle Moraine and Lake Country areas provide scenic beauty; and a plethora of bars and restaurants provide ample pit stop opportunity.
|Highway 83's northern end begins in the midst of farmland; Hartford is just down the road, and the twin steeples of Holy Hill come into view shortly after the highway's start.|
The Drive (North to South): Highway 83 begins as an offshoot from Highway 175, the former route of U.S. 41 and part of the classic Yellowstone Trail, in a rural crossroads. After five miles of open farmland and rolling hills, you reach the first town.
Highway 83 enters Hartford (pop. 13,700), as the main north-south road (hence, it's called "Main Street"), twisting through town along a series of residential neighborhoods on the north and south ends of town. Hartford is a fast-growing city with a long history that includes being an automotive manufacturing center, the place where Libby's (Libby's Libby's on the label label label...remember that ad?) processed most of its beets for the national market, and where Broan-NuTone LLC got its start in the home ventilation business. Today, it's a global company with headquarters in Hartford. Health care has become a major business in the area too, serving has the headquarters for API Healthcare. Quad/Graphics also maintains a major facility in the area. For fun, Hartford hosts the Annual Hartford Balloon Rally, which includes evening events with glowing balloons and a fireworks show. It's one of Wisconsin's largest balloon events.
The Kissel and Hartford's Auto History
Hartford holds the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, (147 N. Rural Street, 262-673-7999) the largest such museum in the state. Classic and vintage autos dating as far back as 1906 adorn the museum, which also sports a 250-ton locomotive, automobile artifacts, and a massive Lionel train set layout. It also showcases the Kissel, an automobile manufactured in Hartford from 1906 until 1931 (more on the Kissel in a moment.) The museum lies one block off Highway 83, just northwest of where you meets up with Highway 60 at the main downtown intersection.
The Kissel Kar Company was founded in Hartford in 1906 when George and William Kissel turned their hobby into a business. They built passenger cars, ambulances, fire trucks, taxicabs and more for 25 years. Among their most popular models were the Gold Bug Speedster (1925) and the White Eagle Speedster (1929), which became internationally famous and coveted by movie stars like Fatty Arbuckle at a time when the "talkies" were just debuting. Aviatrix Amelia Earhart also sported a Kissel, as did actress and stuntwoman Anita King, who became the first women to drive solo across the country in 1915 when she road tripped from California to New York in a Kissel, receiving a hero's welcome upon her arrival. Kissel "kranked" out 4,000 units annually at their peak in 1922, but the Great Depression eventually led to their demise. Kissel shuttered its factory doors along the Rubicon River in 1931, leaving a legacy for Hartford and thousands of highly-prized collectors' items to this day.The Kissel marker is along Highway 60 about one half-mile east of Highway 83 in a park along the Rubicon River (Here's the Google street view if you want to check it out).
|The Wisconsin Automotive Museum features an exhibition dedicated to the Kenosha-built Nash, and vintage treats like Studebakers, Reos, Pierce-Arrows and the Tucker. It also has automotive artifacts, a 250-ton locomotive and a display area for the Hudson Essex Terraplane.|
|To go with the largest auto museum in the state, how about the largest restaurant in the state? The Mineshaft serves over 10,000 guests weekly and features the 5,000 square feet Million Dollar Game Room (that's $200 per square foot.)|
The junction of Highways 83 & 60 is the epicenter of Hartford's downtown, and at this epicenter is the largest restaurant in Wisconsin, The Mineshaft. Covering what seems like acres across 5 bars, room for 550 guests at once, a dance floor, a 5,000 square-foot game room area and a stage with performances by bands, The Mineshaft seems like it could have its own zip code. But it shares 53027 with most of the rest of the city.
After some very pleasant residential territory in Hartford, some open space - for the time being - is what greets you for a number of miles toward Waukesha County. The view of Holy Hill lasts for quite some time as you cruise through the Town of Erin, which hosts a sizeable St. Patrick's Day parade and celebration. Shortly after crossing the county line and veering at County CW, you enter Waukesha County's "Lake Country", of which Highway 83 is a primary north-south route.
|Just south of Hartford's main crossroads (Hwys. 60 & 83), Highway 83 heads through some nicer, older neighborhoods.|
|Holy Hill's twin steeples dominate the view along Highway 83 through most of southern Washington County. The road comes within about 2 1/2 miles of it at the closest point, near Highway 167.|
"Lake Country" consists of a string of communities in Waukesha County that run along lakes from La Belle past Oconomowoc east to Pewaukee Lake in Pewaukee. Highway 83 threads between North, Beaver and Pine Lakes from the village of North Lake to Chenequa (pop. 583). The speed limit is low, but it's a beautiful drive through the area. This is popular motorcycling territory too, and taverns dot portions of the route. Two sharp turns at the south end of Chenequa bring you to Highway 16, at which point Highway 83 expands for the ride through eastern Delafield.
|This lovely stretch of Highway 83 through Lake Country is also part of Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive.|
|If you need shade, the stretch of Highway 83 from North Lake to Highway 16 is the place to find it.|
Past Highway 16's interchange and into Delafield (pop. 6,472) , Highway 83 becomes a bigger road and serves this fast-growing area situated amidst moraines, hills, and nearby Lakes Nagawicka and Pewaukee. Nagawicka Lake is surrounded by Delafield, which has a nice downtown. It's known far and wide for antique shopping. Speaking of antiques, Hawk's Inn serves as a great example of what stagecoach stops were like as far back as 1846; it's available for tours, as is the Nashotah House, founded in 1842 as a mission. You can access Delafield's downtown along County C, 2 miles west of Highway 83, via I-94 or County DR (aka Milwaukee Street).
State Trunk Tour Fact:
Delafield's original name? Hayopolis. Seriously. It was also called Oakland before finally changing to Delafield in 1844.
Delafield is also home to St. John's Northwestern Military Academy, established in 1884. It was where James Lovell, Milwaukee native and astronaut of Apollo 13 fame, graduated. He recently came back to address the Class of 2007, when his grandson graduated from the academy. Most of these sights lie near or along County Highway C, which parallels Highway 83 on the west side of Nagawicka Lake. Along Highway 83, Nagawicka Park and the Nagawaukee Ice Arena lie just north of the sprawling development that marks the interchange with I-94. Approching the Interstate, a massive amount of retail and commercial development greets you; you also pass the Lake Country Trail (watch out for bikes), which links Delafield to the west with Waukesha to the east. Down one hill, under the freeway and up the next, you leave Delafield and head toward Wales, winding around hills and passing streets with names like "Scuppernong." Lapham Peak lies to the west; it's the highest point in Waukesha County. It's also where Increase Lapham (a fascinating man in his own right, see why) issued the first official American weather forecast (warning about impending storms on the Great Lakes) on November 8, 1870... and it was correct! Lapham is routinely called the "Father of the United States Weather Bureau", and on nice days the 45-foot observation tower on the peak named after him provides quite a nice view.
|Highway 83 has a major intersection with I-94. This area is the primary shopping area for about ten miles around.|
|The highest point in Waukesha County (elevation: 1,233 feet, or about 30 feet higher in elevation than the top of the U.S. Bank Building in downtown Milwaukee) features a 45-foot observation tower in the middle of the Lapham Peak unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Lapham Peak Unit is sandwiched between Highway 83, I-94, U.S. 18 and nearby County C two miles west. The park's main entrance is off Highway C, accessible via I-94 or U.S. 18.|
Past Lapham Peak, Highway 83 crosses U.S. Highway 18 and enters Wales (pop. 2,523). You also cross the Glacial Drumlin Trail as it heads between Waukesha and Cottage Grove. A good place to access the trail for some riding lies just east of Highway 83 along Wales' own Main Street, just south of the trail's underpass.
South of Wales, Highway 83 enters the Town of Genesee (pop. 7,284) and Genesee Depot. A rail crossroads since the mid-1800s, Genesee Depot was a key Waukesha County stop for the railroad. Pieces of history like the Union House, built in the 1860s, and In Cahoots, a watering hole since that same period, grace the intersection of Highway 83 and the railroad.
|The Union House along the rails crossing Highway 83 in Genesee Depot, hosting railroad travelers since 1864.|
|Across from the Union House, In Cahoots has been a watering hole in one form or another for over a century, and remains a popular stop for bikers and State Trunk Tourers.|
Genesee Depot is also home to the Ten Chimneys Estate , a National Historic Landmark . Broadway greats Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne made their home here and hosted many a get-together involving some of stage and screen's most illustrious stars. Lunt and Fontanne together (they married in 1922) appeared together in over 24 plays and, more recently, on a postage stamp. The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street in New York City is, of course, named for them, an indication of their prowess on the big stage. Tours of Ten Chimneys are available from May through mid-November of the grounds and the house. Furnishings, hand-painted murals, dťcor, art collections and other memorabilia are everywhere, and yes, the house does have 10 chimneys. Even the Gift Shop is unique: from early 20th century hat styles to jewelry to NoŽl Coward quotes adorning black t-shirts, there's plenty of interesting things to check out.
|The main house at Ten Chimneys. All ten chimneys are but a fraction of the architectural splendor both inside the house and on the surrounding grounds.|
|The dining room, for example, where elegance, beauty and attention to detail combined with what must have been some incredibly good meals.|
Guests to Ten Chimneys over the years the Lunts lived there included Katharine Hepburn, W.C. Fields, and most infamously NoŽl Coward, probably the Lunt's most frequent Ten Chimneys guest. Coward was known for many things, including some of the most famous plays ever written; today the theatre in Westminster, London where he first performed in 1920 is named the NoŽl Coward Theatre, which was named in his honor in 2006. He acted in many plays and also performed intelligence work for the British Secret Service during World War II (in fact, he was approached by neighbor Ian Fleming in the 1960s to play the villan's role in Dr. No, which he turned down... with the phrase "Dr. No? No. No. No.") Meanwhile on the Ten Chimney grounds, he has known for walking through the house in the buff on his way to go for a swim because he liked to skinny dip in the pool, causing at least one cook to quit. Others presumably stared or did double-takes at various times.
|Part of Ten Chimneys' Museum Store and reception area includes a variety of things to see, including a stage to check out, backstage samples, a Dick Cavett video interview of the couple from 1970, furniture and more.|
|Of the many things available at Ten Chimneys, you can drink with Yeats, Wilde, Thomas and Fields... just do it after you're done with the driving and touring for the day. And no lampshades, okay??|
Finding Ten Chimneys (and tell them you're doing a State Trunk Tour!): if you're southbound on Highway 83, follow the signs into Genesee Depot. When 83 turns left in town, take a right and follow the street down several hundred feet. If you're northbound, look just past the Union House and In Cahoots; where Highway 83 bends to the right, continue straight on the smaller street. Several hundred feet down you will see the entrance to the grounds. You can contact them for more information at (262) 968-4110 (reservations a day or more in advance is strongly recommended) or at tenchimneys.org.
Past Genesee Depot and into the Town of Genesee, you cross Highway 59 and make a beeline toward Mukwonago (pop. 8,519), a growing town that was once the tribal seat of the Bear Clan of Potawatomis. Mukwonago was originally spelled "Mequanego"; the spelling was adjusted in 1844 to avoid confusion with Mequon in Ozaukee County, about 40 miles away. You can see the nine-foot, 1,000-pound replica bear at the Historical Society and check out Waukesha County's first brick house, built 135 years before the Commodores song of the same name was released. Highway 83 cuts through the heart of Mukwonago as Rochester Street, going past the Village Square before heading south of town and intersection with I-43.
Just south of Mukwonago, you leave Waukesha County and graze the corner of Walworth... for literally about two-tenths of a mile before hitting Racine County. Farmland begins to dominate for a while, including a cool smiley face barn I happened across a few miles past Mukwonago (left). The Tichigan State Wildlife Area lies to the east as Highway 83 makes a beeline to the next town.
At the junction with Highway 20, Highway 83 enters Waterford (pop. 4,048). Originally known by its Potawatomi name of Tichigan (like the lake just to the northeast), Waterford is now named partially due to its narrow crossing point over the Fox River at Main Street (where one could easily, as they used to say, "ford the water".) Downtown features stores and bars a'plenty and some nice parkland along the river. Highway 83 stays with 20 through the heart of town and then to the southeast, where Highway 20 breaks east toward Racine and Highway 83 hooks up with Highway 36 for a multi-lane, higher-speed drive for a while into the Chocolate City.
What is the Chocolate City? Why, it's Burlington (pop. 9,936), of course. It's known as "Chocolate City USA" for its Nestle plant, one of many companies doing business here. Its motto, "The town with the tall tales", is one you'll have to ask locals about. Just outside Burlington is the unincorporated community of Voree, which holds the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite).
Burlington is not slow to point out it is the hometown of All-Pro quarterback Tony Romo, despite the fact that he plays for the Dallas Cowboys. Fortunately, Jessica Simpson helped ensure that he wouldn't stand in the way of the Packers' success in the 2007 playoffs. The city, true to its "Chocolate City USA" name, hosts a festival every Memorial Day weekend to celebrate the tasty cacao bean-based treat. Suggested reading prior to attending Chocolate Fest includes the Willy Wonka books and any diet book that suggests you can eat as much chocolate as you'd like. A bypass of the city, by the way, is currently under construction, so watch for updates as that thing gets built.
State Trunk Tour Fact + Fiction:
Did you know the first person in Burlington to own an automobile was Leonard J. Smith in 1902?
He is also the first person to express road rage in 1903 by using a specific finger to gesture to a slow pedestrian.
Highway 83 heads southeast out of Burlington and makes its way into Kenosha County, paralleling to the west of the Fox River until the road meets up with Highway 50 for another multi-lane, high-speed ride for about six miles to Paddock Lake (pop. 3,200). At Paddock Lake, Highway 83 turns south past Hooker Lake (assuming it's named after bait hooks, not the other kind) and the Town of Salem (pop. 9,871).
Brass Ball Corners.
A brass ball hangs over where Highways 50, 75, and 83 meet in Paddock Lake. If it clanged, that would be rather funny.
On the west side of Paddock Lake, where Highway 83 turns south and Highway 50 continues east to Kenosha and Highway 75 leads north, is a little intersection known as Brass Ball Corners. This dates back to the 1840s, when this stretch was part of a busy (for the time) trade route and trail connecting Kenosha, Lake Geneva, and Janesville. A farmer named Seth Huntoon realized this junction would make a popular place for travelers to stop and rest. He built an inn and, to help draw attention to it, hung a wooden ball gilded in gold at the intersection. People decided it looked more like brass, and ever since it's been known as "Brass Ball Corners". A more detailed story is here. No word on how many "brass balls" jokes have been made during this 170-year-run.
Past Salem, Camp Lake and Trevor, Highway 83 parallels U.S. 45 about 3-4 miles west and provides access via county roads to Wilmot Speedway and the Ski Area before finally hitting the Illinois state line and turning into Illinois Highway 83 at the Village of Antioch (pop. 13,400). But come back to Wisconsin when you're done there!
Highway 83's Wisconsin stretch ends just south of Salem at the Illinois state line, where Antioch (and the Bears and Cubs fans) begins. In Illinois, 83 continues through the Chicago suburbs, eventually turning east and ending at the Indiana line.
Total Mileage: 76 miles
Average MPG in the Ford Escape Hybrid: 32.1 MPG
Can connect immediately to: Highway 175
Can connect nearby to: Highway 33, about 3 miles north; Highway 60, about six miles south; U.S. 41, about 3 miles east via Highway 175 and County K
Can connect immediately to: Illinois Highway 83
Can connect nearby to: Highway 50, about 6 miles north; U.S. Highway 45, about 3 miles east via Illinois Highway 173 or County P
Upcoming events in places along Highway 83:
Burlington, Chocolate Fest, May 24-27, 2013
Delafield, Delafield Block Party: Food & Music Festival, July 12-13, 2013
Waterford, Waterford Hot Air Balloon Festival, July 19-20, 2013
Delafield, Waukesha Blues Fest, August 9-10, 2013
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