Treasured gifts don’t always come in packages tied with ribbons and bows. Many of my most treasured gifts come filled with memories and tied with heartstrings! Each year, when it’s time to plan a birthday celebration, my wish is always the same… I just love to make special birthday memories by visiting an old-fashioned place filled with the magic of Christmas!
The twinkle of tiny, white lights, the scent of evergreen boughs, the sounds of Christmas music, and the jingle of bells always bring these cherished memories to life. Very often, softly falling snowflakes add to the magic. Most years, my memories come from charming, small towns nearby, but milestone birthdays hold some special Christmas-y memories made in wonderful, far off places.
We just returned from one of our sweetest birthday celebrations, filled with the most wonderful memories! Historic Cedarburg, Wisconsin has always been one of my favorite Midwest destinations. For decades, dear friends and I have been coming to visit this charming, small town in the heartland of America. What a special gift it was this year to travel there with my husband, and to experience this special place, for the first time, through his eyes! It was such fun to share this piece of my heart with him!
Walking along Washington Avenue, I am always filled with admiration for the historic, wooden homes and stone buildings that hold so much history here in Cedarburg.
Settled by Irish and German immigrants in 1845, along the banks of Cedar Creek, this small town has a very proud history. Over the years, the village grew as five mills were built along the creek. The need for workers attracted people from Milwaukee, just 20 miles south, and far beyond.
In 1864, the Hilgen & Wittenberg Woolen Mill played an important part in our nation’s history, by producing wool blankets for the Union soldiers during the Civil War. Today, Cedar Creek Settlement is a lively, bustling home to shops, restaurants, studios, and a celebrated winery set in the three-story, stone structure which originally housed the woolen mill and blacksmith shop.
Today many of the historic buildings are home to quaint shops, art galleries, museums, churches, cafes, and inns that bring visitors from around the world to this quiet Wisconsin hamlet. One of my special joys has always been walking through these beautiful, old buildings.
The people of Cedarburg are always so welcoming and friendly, engaging visitors in conversations, inquiring where visitors are from, and offering helpful suggestions about places to see.
Each time I wander along Washington Avenue, architectural elements of the historic buildings catch my eye.
I often pause to soak in all of the interesting details.
Throughout the year, many festivals bring crowds of visitors to Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
December is the perfect time to visit Cedarburg. All of the historic buildings are decked with tiny, white Christmas lights and evergreen garlands. As darkness falls during the popular ‘Festive Fridays,’ carolers dressed in Victorian clothing sing as they walk along the sidewalks. Horse drawn carriages carry visitors through town, bundled under blankets to chase away the cold.
Many of the beautiful, old churches offer a peaceful place to pause and reflect.
On this special visit, we enjoyed a stay in one of Cedarburg’s inns.
The romantic, historic Stagecoach Inn Bed & Breakfast was a delightful choice!
Built in 1853, this hotel was a stop for stagecoaches en route from Milwaukee to Green Bay. It was a full day’s travel for the stagecoach to make the 20-mile journey from Milwaukee to Cedarburg. In the early days, the hotel was used by male guests who slept in the unfurnished guest rooms. They would rent a sleeping bag for one penny per night (or 3 cents per week) and sleep on the floor of the hotel. The narrow, wooden staircase could not accommodate the large travel trunks. So, the trunks were hoisted up through the second story windows into the guest rooms. The stagecoach drivers roomed in the basement in very primitive conditions. Two bunk-style spaces were constructed from rubble stone. Straw was used for the bedding and a pot-bellied stove warmed the dirt-floor basement, where the stagecoach drivers slept. The drivers would stable their horse at a barn next door and enter the hotel through the outside basement door. Any couples traveling together on the stagecoach were invited to stay as guests in the comfortable homes in town.
The Greek Revival style stone building underwent more additions in the 1880s. It has served as a hotel or boarding house during its entire history. Slated for the wrecking ball in the 1980s, this historic building was saved and lovingly restored by owners, Brook and Liz Brown.
They preserved the original materials throughout the building, added bathrooms, air conditioning, and other modern conveniences. The Browns lived and raised their family in the inn for many years. This year, they are celebrating 32 years as innkeepers at The Stagecoach Inn B &B.
Our stay at The Stagecoach Inn was wonderful. Our quiet, second story room overlooked Washington Avenue, decked with tiny, white Christmas lights. A lovely bottle of wine and chocolates, a thoughtful birthday gift from the innkeepers, greeted us as we entered our guest room. Antique furniture, including a pine wardrobe for our clothes, added so much charm. We closed the wooden shutters above the wide windowsills to enjoy a warm, cozy stay at the inn. I was in my ‘happy place’ surrounded by antique charm in this historic, little inn.
I drifted off to sleep in the soft, comfortable bed, feeling blessed to be staying in one of the nine guest rooms in this wonderful, little place. Old buildings have always held a very special place in my heart. During the night, thoughts about the history of the inn gently awakened me. As I lay awake, an unexplained feeling of excitement added to this special birthday adventure. I thought about how fortunate we were to be guests here, becoming part of the history of the inn. I wondered about the numerous people who had slept within these thick, stone walls over the past 162 years. I wondered if Abraham Lincoln ever visited the inn…
In the morning, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the first floor pub. Since we were the first guests to awaken, we had the pleasure of talking with innkeeper Brook Brown over breakfast. Oh, the fascinating stories he had to share!! He told us about their adventures in restoring the inn. A retired history teacher, he explained how the stagecoach passengers traveled through rural Wisconsin in the mid 1800s. We all shared stories of our travel adventures and favorite places in the world. Brook helped us with our plans for the day ahead, as we ventured off to explore some new destinations in Cedarburg.
Then it happened… and it still sends a chill of excitement through me even now!
Brook told us about some of the previous guests they had welcomed over the years ~ famous musicians, well-known actors and actresses, state Supreme Court justices, many visitors from Europe, and someone who has always inspired me…
Yes, several years ago, Tasha Tudor, stayed at The Stagecoach Inn…
in our very same room!
Tears of joy flowed the moment Brook told us about Tasha’s visit!
Perhaps the unexplained feelings of excitement and joy
that awoke me in the middle of the night
were Tasha’s inspiration for this wonderful new decade in my life!
I hope so!!
I can feel her inspiration, from the bottom of my heart!
Our stay at The Stagecoach Inn B&B was definitely one of the highlights of our Cedarburg adventure! Our story doesn’t end yet, though. A warmer, sunny day on Friday led us to some other new discoveries. I can’t wait to share some of the hidden gems we found as we explored the quiet, little town of Cedarburg, Wisconsin! ☺ Next time…
P.S. What special Christmas-y places have you enjoyed visiting? I hope you will share them with us. (I’m making a list for future birthday memories ~ tied with heartstrings!)