Walking Tour: Library Park Historic District

4/23/2018 - Jared Rasmussen

Downtown, History, Interactive
Library Park Historic District in Kenosha Wisconsin
Library Park Historic District in Kenosha Wisconsin
Library Park Historic District in Kenosha Wisconsin
Library Park Historic District in Kenosha Wisconsin

One of my favorite things about the changing seasons this time of year is the increased hospitality of “walking weather.”  You can certainly walk outside in the winter, but even Nancy Sinatra’s boots made for walking probably didn’t handle too well in the snow.

With the proliferation of personal fitness devices, chances are you know a handful of people trying to obtain 10,000 steps each day. Good news!  Not only is spring in Kenosha a beautiful time and place to walk, but the Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau has four self-guided tours of historic districts available for your enjoyment!

Though I am focusing on the use for walkers, these tours are anything but pedestrian, spanning some of the most interesting areas our city has to offer. Three of the four routes are on the National Register of Historic Places, and one is a locally designated historic district.  The guides specifically touch on some of the most remarkable buildings including communal meeting places and personal homes, some with fascinating former residents, spanning over 100 years!

I chose to take the Library Park tour as it was the largest, and I was curious how many steps it would garner on my pedometer. I started off on a bright albeit brisk April day in the late morning, and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of historic monuments in what is practically my own neighborhood!  

The Library Park Historic District tour begins at the corner of 59th Place and 8th Avenue at the former YMCA / Kenosha Youth Foundation, a large, stone ashlar building now being renovated for apartments.  After passing the limestone Gothic peaks of St. Matthews Episcopal Church, you get to circle through Library Park to see the Lincoln statue, soldiers’ monument, and the library itself.  Fun fact:  while Lincoln statues are still popular today, this one was built in 1909 – only 44 years after the end of the Civil War and Lincoln’s presidency.

The tour then circles through some side streets and residential blocks passing homes owned previously by some early business pioneers.  In speaking of the Civil War, one home was a safe house for the Underground Railroad, with a plaque to commemorate the fact!

Most of the houses have plaques dedicating the years in which they were built.  The oldest on the tour is from 1843, a full five years before Wisconsin even became a state!  Some plaques contain additional information about the previous tenants, including one which is marked as the birthplace of Orson Welles.  (Growing up in Chicago, Welles spent the first five years of his life in Kenosha – another fun fact that I did not know prior to taking this self-guided tour!)

These are some of the many interesting sites on this tour. Add all the other history that you could dive into on this route, plus the three other tour guides available, and you’ve got a lot of historical exploring to do.  As for my original question of duration, my pace was 25 minutes (including sight-seeing and taking photos) and 1,853 steps, a number which is reminiscent of the age on some of the buildings!  To get 10,000 steps, you could simply walk the Library Park route multiple times, or perhaps take the approximately one mile walk to the Third Avenue Historic District to the southeast or Pearl Street and Civic Center Districts to the north, then complete another tour.  Wherever the road takes you, lace up your walking shoes and enjoy the views!

Jared Rasmussen

Community Blogger

Carthage College Graduate. Kenosha Resident by way of Racine.  Roommate to Allie, the cat. Living near HarborPark. Interests include art, animals, sports, music, and dining at Kenosha restaurants.