So, after determining that the Reagan house didn’t open to April and deciding that we didn’t want to stand on South Hennepin Avenue waiting until then … and after taking pictures of the house from all perspectives (being that there are only SO many ways to take a picture of a white house in a snowstorm) – we moved on.
I was disappointed I couldn’t show my guests Reagan’s home (since who knows when they’d be up here from South Florida again), so I told them we would meander down through town. I knew of some other sites – like his church and his school that we could at least see from the outside.
But when we got to the school we noticed a sign that said “Historic Center” and “see Ronald Reagan’s sixth grade classroom.”
“We could go see what this is all about.” I suggested.
The building was a typical, early 1900s, two-story brick school building and I figured we would see a classroom, a couple black-framed pictures on the wall, be out of there and head west.
We walked into an empty hallway with a gigantic picture of President Reagan made of Jelly Belly candy (like the one at the Jelly Belly Factory). A lady came out of one of the rooms and told us that there were more exhibits on the second floor including the classroom and “that if Bill were here he could tell you exactly what they were.”
Magically Bill appeared. (We’re still trying to figure out if he just happened by or if she called him and told him to come.)
He led us upstairs and explained that when the town began restoring the Reagan house, Reagan realized they needed some monetary help so he called his friend Mr. Wymbs. Mr. Wymbs did see to the house restoration and then realized that the South Central School building where Reagan had gone as a child was falling apart – so he also restored the school. Reagan’s sixth grade classroom was renovated as was the school gym. A Reagan memorial room was created with lots of artifacts, movie posters, etc. (Reagan helped by donating a lot of personal items.)
But more than that – a not-what-you’d-expect-to-see-on-the-second-floor-of-an-old-school-building diorama of Blackhawk history was tucked away on one side of the hall. Except the exhibit is state-of-the-art costing millions of dollars and looking like it belongs in the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. That exhibit goes right into an Illinois farming exhibit – again unbelievably surprising for what you’d expect. The dioramas include talking mannequins (which sound sort of robotic, but still …) and are bordered with prairie grasses complete with ladybugs and snakes (which Bill pointed out to us). If you’ve been to the area before (as I have) and haven’t noticed this building – these latest exhibits just opened earlier this year.
The museum, in fact, is now an affiliate of the Smithsonian, a designation that actually took them 20 years and now allows them to offer visiting Smithsonian exhibits and I guess, so they say, is quite an accomplishment.
Here are some of the “views” from the Blackhawk exhibit.