Mineral Point, an "architectural gem" in the hills

August 22, 2016

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Mineral Point is the third largest city in Wisconsin, about 2,500 people at the 2010 census. It is the third oldest city in Wisconsin. Mineral Point was settled in 1827, becoming a lead and zinc mining center during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today the city's historical character has made it a regional tourist destination.

The Mineral Point Chamber of Commerce describes the town this way:

"Mineral Point, an architectural gem in the hills of southwest Wisconsin, is often described as magical. Historic buildings, working artists, locally owned shops and restaurants, relaxing places to stay and lots of friendly folks … just part of what makes this a special place."

I must say I have to agree. The town is located in the hills of Iowa County, in the southwest part of the state, northeast of Dubuque, Iowa on Hwy 151.

TravelWisconsin.com describe it this way:

"A walk down Mineral Point streets evokes a stroll through a Cornish village. Miners from Cornwall, England were among the first to settle here. Their homes and businesses, crafted of stone, have been carefully restored, with many buildings pre-dating statehood. The city’s historic district includes early architecture of the Midwest including the Railroad Museum - the oldest depot in Wisconsin built in 1856."

I just can't say it any better. I only spent a couple hours or so touring the town but can't wait to get back, stay and explore. Frankly when I got there I was surprised, pleasantly so of course. I took a bunch of photos of the old buildings and will take you on my camera tour as I took it. The town center is High Street, referred to by the Chamber of Commerce as the "High Street Beat."

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This was the first great building I saw entering town. On the left is the Pfotenhauer Law Office, on the right the Green Lantern Studios. The Green Lantern provides fine art and handicrafts. It features the work of Richard Moninski and Carole Spelic', and other artists working in a variety of media.

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The building on the left hosts Wantoot, Modern American Art and Craft. The building to its right sells clothing, I believe as a not-for-profit.

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The building on the left, put up in 1892, now hosts Bertram Financial, which specializes in retirement planning, run by Beverly and Michelle Bertram. Next to it is the Chamber of Commerce Information Center, and then the Gray Dog Deli. The deli boasts soups and salads, wraps and sandwiches. It is vegetarian and vegan friendly. Frankly, the architecture is so wonderful I wish they would lose the Pepsi machine! If you looked very carefully, above the white van is a grey dog!

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Well, let me help you with a zoomer.

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At one time this was the home of the First National Bank, later named the Farmer's Savings Bank. Its architectural style is Richardsonian Romanesque. It is made of sandstone and was built 1906-1907. The Mineral Point Telephone Co. also was on the first floor, to the rear. There was a mining office on the second floor. I am not sure what has happened to the building at present. The first floor appeared empty, and I have seen indications the building is for sale. It is called "The Old bank Building" by the locals.

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The Mineral Point Opera House began in 1915 as a vaudeville house. Over the years, it has been used as a movie theater and a venue for a variety of live performances. It has recently been renovated. It is known as "The Theater for All the People."

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This is At Home, a home decor store from rustic to modern. The owners pair BekDavid Custom Window Fashions/Interiors with McCoy Interiors to provide clients with complete residential and light commercial Interior Design Services. The building was constructed in 1897. When I was visiting, the owner was hanging the American flag — can't go wrong here!

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The Medical Center on High Street. At last look, it had a staff of nine doctors and Physician’s Assistants who provide full service medical care. It is located in a building named "The White House," built in 1897. It was designed in the commercial vernacular, Italianate and Queen Anne styles. It is historically known as the White House Dry Goods Store, the W.J. Penhallegon Building, and Penhallegon & Co. General Store. W. J. Penhallegon was born in Mineral Point, son of a shoemaker who immigrated from Cornwall. He rebuilt this building after the fire of 1897 destroyed his previous store. The Medical Center extends into the narrow building next to it, shown on the far left, which is a two story Italianate building also constructed in 1897. Its historic names include Martin and Tony Hardware Store, and the N.T. Martin Building. Interestingly, the Wisconsin Historical Society lists the White House at 110 High Street, but both buildings are labeled 104 High Street.

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This is the Tequila Point Restaurant, a southwestern girl and Margarita bar. It is located in the "Old Royal Inn." The Old Royal Inn was one of the best spots at which to hang out. There was a restaurant and bar on the main floor. When the restaurant closed, the space became a temporary gallery space and it also housed the winter farmer’s market. The building also hosts apartments upstairs.

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Let me first say that if I had been some sort of rich man, I would have insisted the owners sell me this house immediately. I just fell in love with it. Of all things, it is on 105 Jail Alley. Its historic name is the Parley Eaton House, also known as The Needlewood Gallery. It was built in 1847. It is a federal style house. Parley Eaton, an attorney from Massachusetts, built it. He served as a county judge in 1849. It is now a single-family home.

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The building to the right at 205 Commerce Street is a private home that has been remodeled inside. Next to it is Prairie Oak Artisans, an art gallery displaying the products of artists who work in natural materials, historic methods of media, in nature or environmental themes, or who reuse or recycle materials into artful and functional items.

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The Mineral Point Hotel is a bit deceiving from the outside. Inside it is a boutique hotel with five spacious rooms in the heart of the historic downtown area.

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This the James Polkingham Building built in 1878. It is in Italianate style. Polkingham used it as a retail space. It then became a saloon with a small apartment upstairs and remained that way until the first part of the 20th century. It was then converted into a farm implement dealership in 1936. I believe it is currently an art gallery.

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Well now we're cooking. This is Brewery Creek. It has a B&B Inn, brewpub restaurant and brewery all in the same building on 23 Commerce St. Five kinds of beer are made here, about 3,000 gallons per year. The tag line is, "Crackling Good Beer!"

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The Mineral Point Railroad Museum was a depot, built in 1856 from local materials. It is the oldest depot in Wisconsin. The last train left Mineral Point in 1984, after which the building was left vacant and was boarded up. The Mineral Point Railroad Society formed in 2000 to further the restoration of the depot. It was re-opened in 2004.

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I do not think this is necessarily a historic building, but it most certainly caught my attention for its architecture. It is the United Church of Christ.

So that was a whirlwind tour. Believe me I only scratched the surface. What a great town!