A Concrete Collection and A Covered Bridge
12 Aug 2011
|An unexpected thing happened to us today! The weather forecasters were wrong in their prediction of rain showers ALL day long and instead the day, albeit a bit overcast, was still pleasant, some blue skies and quite frankly; a pretty day. We had pretty much planned on hanging out around the coach all day, so being able to get out and explore more of Wisconsin was definitely a plus and off we headed to Phillips, approximately 60+ miles southeast from Hayward.
The route to Phillips took us along some forest stretches containing diverse geological formations along the entire route. These central patches include some of the oldest formations in the United States, forming an 80-mile ridgeline – the Great Divide, which continues into Michigan, and is the basin separating drainage north and south. At one time this range was higher than the Alps and held the greatest concentrations of iron ore in the United States. And subterranean chasms still hold what is believed to be the planet’s most comprehensive reserves in untouched taconite ore – 3.7 billion tons.
Also, along the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest two recent species have reentered the picture after coming close to extinction within the state; the timber wolf and elk. In fact, we saw many signs telling us if the lights are flashing, elk have been sighted in the area and to proceed with caution and they were definitely flashing when we drove through this particular stretch of road; however, never saw any!
Phillips was originally called Elk Lake and later changed its name in 1876 after the general manager of the Wisconsin Central Railroad. A large fire occurred in the area in 1894 devastating over 100,000 acres of forestland around the town. The city slowly rebuilt itself and remains pretty much the same today with the red brick and sandstone buildings lining the streets. To date, this has been the most devastating fire in our country. However, this is NOT what brought us to Phillips. We came to see the fabled Wisconsin’s Concrete Park, built entirely by Fred Smith.
Smith began working as a lumberjack in his early teens, did not know how to read or write. After many years of hard work in the woods, he retired in 1948 at the age of 63. He then taught himself how to build sculptures and created over 200 statues on the land surrounding his house and tavern. Smith worked on this project for about fifteen years and called his museum the Wisconsin Concrete Park. After an illness in 1964, he could no longer construct his sculptures and lived in a rest home till his death in 1976. He built the Wisconsin Concrete Park as a gift “for all the American people”. He built his life-size sculptures and placed them around his property to tell stories about life in northern Wisconsin and to represent other historical moments.
After a bad wind storm hit the area in 1977, many of the sculptures were in a sad state of disrepair and were going to be bull-dozed until it was purchased by the Kohler Foundation and it underwent a major restoration in 1978 and the site was deeded to Price County.
We found the park after stopping to get directions from City Hall because we never saw any signs telling us where we could find it. I truly hope our pictures will do this park justice because it is positively an overwhelming display. There were animals, groups of men and women, Native Americans and the list goes on and on. Smith put the glass within the sculpture to help protect the concrete from the elements and also to add dimension to his sculptures and it was written he liked the way the sun would catch the glass. It was fun to stroll around the “gardens” checking out the various figures and reading about them and what Smith had to say about why he created some of the figures.
After we left Phillips, we headed north to the little town of Fifield and the turn off to find one of Wisconsin’s latest “Rustic Trails” (will provide more information about this in another post) and to find Wisconsin’s “only covered bridge built in the state in a century”. It’s a Town Lattice Truss bridge with a modern twist – its use of glue laminated lumber, allowing continuous chords on the top and bottom of the trusses. The drive was beautiful and made more so to Jerry because we were on a dirt road and you all know how much he likes finding himself driving along any and all dirt roads now that we have the Jeep!
We drove back through Park Rapids, the capitol of the Ruffed Grouse, and then into Glidden, the capitol of the black bear due to their population in this area being the greatest in the state. Not so sure that would be something to make me overly comfortable, but then of course we never saw any either. This was probably the one exception where the book on Wisconsin stated it was a scenic drive that we would agree; it truly was the entire route back to Hayward.
Sometimes the unplanned trips become the most fun and this definitely was no exception, we really enjoyed seeing more of Wisconsin and so much is still untapped!
Till the next time . . .