An urban farmhouse kitchen in historic downtown Savanna
Circa 1888 opened its doors in 2018 and has been a popular staple for gourmet dining with a modern culinary twist. Savanna mayor, Chris Lain, and husband, Jube, own the historic building. At the time, they already owned The Savanna Marketplace and Ecology Inn down the street. When this building became available for purchase, they took a leap and purchased it with an idea for a farmhouse kitchen. With neither of them ever being in the restaurant business before this, they weren’t sure where they were heading. Fortunately, their business and creative direction backgrounds gave them the confidence to go full speed ahead.
The building wasn’t in great shape upon purchase with a few leaks and floors that needed refinishing, as well as a full kitchen install. Their vision came to life as they started the renovation. Chris and Jube preserved the building’s original features--exposed the brick walls, ornate ceiling tiles, vintage molding, and original floors.
Upon walking in the door, the natural light from the giant front windows beams off the historic brick walls. The walls display local and fun artwork, the gathering tables offer plenty of seating, the homemade bar made out of old doors makes a perfect spot for ordering a specialty cocktail. The specialty drinks rotate along with the menu options ensuring a new item to try each time you return.
The patio is an added bonus
The building’s interior is beautiful but Circa 1888 has a unique feature, unlike other restaurants downtown, with an outdoor patio overlooking the Mississippi River. The beautiful patio features multiple tables with stunning views of the river. It’s a place where friends and families can gather together in a casual atmosphere- indoors or outside on the patio.
The unique menu allows a fun culinary visit
The menu is diverse and full of homemade dishes with modern twists. Shrimp Poutine (Wisconsin cheese curds, fries, and Cajun Cream Sauce) and Thai Chicken Flatbread with Peanut Sauce are just two mouth-watering choices. Circa 1888 also offers gluten-free options for a majority of the menu. The menu selection rotates, but the most requested dishes remain--chicken wings, the classic Cubano sandwich, grass-fed burgers, and steak dinners.
We sat down and had a hard time choosing - everything looked incredible! We started by ordering the Goat Cheese Croquettes with a mango chutney dipping sauce. They were unbelievably good. We moved on to a 100% grass-fed beef burger and Sirloin Steak for our main course. The burgers are sourced from local Wisconsin-raised and processed beef and served to your liking on a brioche bun, topped with your choice of fixings. Our meals arrived expertly presented on our plates. Both the burger and sirloins were cooked perfectly with fresh vegetables and a loaded baked potato on the side.
Don’t skip dessert
Dessert is my weakness. I’ll take half of my food home for leftovers before skipping an excellent dessert menu. This evening’s menu featured cheesecake with sour cream topping, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, lemon cake with baked fruits, and chocolate pots de creme. How do you choose? So as anyone would do, we decided on three different desserts to take home with us. Each one was equally amazing.
Enjoy a walk around Savanna after dinner
Savanna is full of history, live entertainment, local dives, and eccentric shops and restaurants to choose from for your exploration. Take a stroll on their historic Main Street to shop and admire the buildings dating back to the 1800s. You're probably hungry by now, so I won't keep you any longer. Make a trip to Savanna and dine at Circa 1888 for a fantastic meal.
305 Main Street
Savanna, IL 61074
Hours may change seasonally.
Thursday: 4:00PM - 8:00PM
Friday: Noon - 8:00PM
Saturday: 11:00AM - 9:00PM
Sunday: 11:00AM - 7:00PM
A wild idea
It all started with a wild idea. A historic vacant building sat empty in downtown Oregon, Illinois’ Main Street, waiting for someone to give it a new life.
Jason and Carrie O'Neil had never run a business, let alone a bar, so the opportunity was exhilarating. In 2017 they were ready to move forward with their plan. After purchasing the building, they updated the space with hardwood floors and matte black fixtures throughout the property. Simultaneously, the O'Neil's maintained historical integrity by saving the exposed brick walls and tin ceilings. The brick wall features local art representing the Black Hawk region and Indian Head history.
The O'Neil's hired staff, learned the POS system, and created their branding and social media presence in just two short months. Thankfully, Jason is a graphic designer and brought the concept to life fairly quickly and continues to do so.
I asked how they came up with the business name, “That was a long ideation,” joked Jason. They tossed around different names for a while. Nothing clicked until one night, Carrie put together a variety of bar and drink keywords. The two descriptive words that describe their business came together--Cork & Tap.
More than a wine bar
Cork & Tap originated as a wine bar, but as time passed, they expanded drink options to include unique cocktails, martinis, and several Moscow Mule varieties. The O'Neils are continually updating their menus, drink specialties, beers on tap, and seasonal drinks.
The bar offers over 30 different wines regionally and nationally, 14 rotating tap beers, and menu pages full of Moscow Mule varieties, specialty drinks, and martini options. The specialty cocktails include fun names such as the Mermaid Water, Gummy Bear Margarita, Blueberry Whiskey Buck, Lavender Lemonade, and Funfetti Cake Batter Martini.
As I sifted through the multiple-page menu, I joked that I’d bring a driver with me next time to try out some of their tempting drinks. The Pomegranate Mule, Cherry Cheesecake Martini, and Peachy Bellini are just three unique cocktails offered.
Cork & Tap's seating areas are welcoming with expansive bar seating, large tables with ample seating for 6, and loft space couch seating with a dining table overlooking the main bar. The staff is always warm and welcoming, in addition to being able to make some fantastic cocktails.
Cork & Tap holds public events like tap bar takeovers, wine tastings, guest food vendors, painting classes, and holiday events.
Pandemic requires ingenuity
During the pandemic, the Cork & Tap came up with drink kits and growlers for patrons to take home and enjoy. The business had to cancel events during the pandemic, but as restrictions start to loosen, they’re eager to hosting more events soon.
It’s an event space
Cork & Tap also has three event spaces it rents out for weddings, baby and wedding showers, receptions, reunions, birthday parties, and corporate events. The main floor event room is divided from the main bar and seats 45 people. The third-floor space is expansive with a mix of hardwood floors, carpet, brick, and exposed rafters. There are two spaces on the top floor that are rented together or separately. The entire top floor seats up to 150 people.
“Our big thing has always been to focus on being an open and inviting place for people to enjoy. It’s a space to entertain guests and keep them coming back,” said Jason. “Providing a gathering place is the most important aspect of our business.”
Cork & Tap
305 W Washington St.
Oregon, IL, 61061
Wed-Thurs: 3-9 pm
Fri: 3-10 pm
Sat: 12-10 pm
Sun: 12-6 pm
Built in 1874 as a home for a bride
The brick Italianate Victorian home was built in 1874 for William Judd Mix as a wedding gift to his third wife. The Mix family owned a brick factory and were considered one of the wealthiest people in Ogle County.
Since the early 90s, the Pinehill Inn has run as a bed & breakfast. The current owners, Ken and Chris Williams, purchased the property in 2005. The inn, sold empty of any furnishings, left 5,000 square feet of space to design and fill. Chris was excited about the “decorator” task. Over the years, even though the couple added their personal touches and modernized portions of the home, Pinehill has maintained its historic integrity.
History and charm go hand in hand
The historic inn sits on two acres of beautifully maintained land with the bed and breakfast, outdoor porch and veranda, and a carriage house used for special events. Pinehill is on the National Register of Historic Homes.
There is only one guest room on the main floor, but it may be one of the most sentimental rooms of all. The room, named “Captains Quarters,” is a nautical-themed room with beautiful handmade ships belonging to Ken’s father.
As you start walking up the 147-year-old grand staircase, the beautiful custom-made silk French wallpaper and “coffin corner” nooks in the wall catch your eye. The second floor is home to five more guest rooms, all with private bathrooms and themes such as the “Somerset Room” and “Rose Room.” The latter is named after the 60-year-old wallpaper that Chris and Ken left untouched. Chris decorated all the rooms. She picked a fine piece of art and designed the space around it. With the perfect mix of luxury and country charm, each spacious room is sure to take you back in time while providing modern amenities.
The home boasts 75 windows, seven different marble fireplaces, and layered wallpaper from France. The home’s original owners hosted famous visitors such as English writer and dramatist W. Somerset Maugham during 1919 - 1948. There's even a room named after him. Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft, who created the Blackhawk statue overlooking the Rock River, often visited Pinehill.
Putting the “B” in Bed and Breakfast
Pinehill serves two styles of breakfast, available upon request at the time of booking. Two formal dining parlors provide plenty of space for Pinehill’s delicious and healthy breakfasts cooked by Chris. During my tour, she took me into her kitchen, where she whips up breakfast every morning, and to my surprise, it was the most modernized room in the house. Chris takes pride in cooking breakfast for her guests. She jokes that she has “two of everything” in her kitchen. Pinehill also has a 24-hour butler’s pantry with a full selection of complimentary snacks and beverages.
Each of the six unique guests rooms come equipped with plenty of amenities and special touches, including:
- Complimentary WiFi
- High ceilings
- Fireplaces in some rooms
- Complimentary snacks and beverages
- Memory-foam bedding
- Plush robes
- Cable TV
More than overnight accommodations
The mansion has plenty of room for a romantic getaway or social gathering. Still, Pinehill also offers multiple venues to host special events and small weddings.
The Mansion, Carriage House, and 2 acres of property all provide a secluded and refined environment to host any event. The carriage contains rustic charm and is the perfect gathering space for small parties.
The inn also offers space for corporate meetings and events. Clients may use the inn’s catering services or an option to bring their food in.
The inn offers a B&B College
Have you ever dreamed of running a bed and breakfast?
Owning and operating a bed and breakfast takes passion, persistence, and knowledge. The Williams started offering their own B&B College by teaching the ins and outs of being a bed and breakfast owner and innkeeper, going over everything from acquiring guests, proper marketing, and how to manage the business.
The cost is $485 per couple, plus the special room rate of $99 a night. Included is a reception the evening before, breakfast and lunch on the first day, and breakfast on the second day. Students receive a 100+ page notebook with all teaching materials and a CD with sample forms and budgeting spreadsheet templates.
Register by calling or emailing:
- Call: 1-815-732-2067
- Bed & Breakfast College page
Pinehill Inn Bed & Breakfast
400 Mix Street
Oregon, Illinois, 61061-1113
Phone: (815) 732-2067
Cheers in Milledgeville
Everybody’s got one they love.... that place where you come as you are, relax, and enjoy time with friends. In the small town of Milledgeville – a population of 1,032 – sits just the place. After opening in 2017, Pub 225 has grown to become a popular spot and even a destination for something that may be hard to find in the rest of Carroll County – martinis.
Jamie Emmert and her husband, Jason Schmidt, saw a need for something different in Jason’s hometown of Milledgeville. A vacant beauty shop at the corner of 310 Main Street came up for sale and they knew what they had to do. The building needed a lot of work but they had a vision and started peeling off layers of the interior which revealed the old building's tin ceilings and walls.
It's all about the martinis
They wanted a name that would reflect the history of Jason’s beloved hometown and decided to incorporate the first three numbers of the village's telephone system “225." They opened up with the simple motto of “Come in as strangers, leave as friends” with your standard beer and shot offerings but knew they needed something more. They started with five martinis on the menu and surprisingly, within the first year, they sold more martinis to men than women.
As the martinis took off, so did the number of suggestions and ideas for new flavors from their devoted customers. They started incorporating new creations such as the “Missile” named after Milledgeville’s school mascot and seasonal martinis like the Drunken Pumpkin, Sugar Cookie with Frosting and Sugar, Jack Frost with a coconut rim, and even a Dill Pickle Martini substituting an olive for a pickle. At only $5 each, the martini’s are a steal and their martini menu includes over 30 different creations such as lemon drop (my favorite), cherry blossom, cucumber citrus, gummy bear, salted caramel, coconut cream, pineapple upside-down, just peachy, appletini, sour apple jolly rancher, and more.
Their smooth martini recipes are what make Pub 225 so popular, bringing people from all over the area and even nearby cities to visit the unique pub in this small village. Jamie and Jason are pretty good at “shaking things up” but that’s not a title they take lightly. Jamie took online classes and is now a certified mixologist. To earn this certification you have to have an understanding of different types of liquors, flavor profiles, and how to adjust them to create that perfect balance.
Jason and Jamie are extroverts and as we walked in we were greeted with big smiles. As Jason handed us the menu and pointed out his favorites, I asked if he was the professional mixologist to which he laughed and said that Jamie was the master mixologist. We decided on Caramel Apple and Chocolate Covered Strawberry martinis for our first round – you won’t be able to have just one. When I order a martini I'm always a little nervous to take that first sip because many times it can be a mouth full of strong liquor taste, but to my surprise, it wasn’t that at all. The ones I sampled were smooth without a strong, overpowering alcohol taste.
Not a martini fan? Pub 225 carries bottled beer, mixed drinks of all kinds, and soft drinks.
Enjoy the patio during warm weather
Even in the midst of the pandemic, Jamie and Jason continue to expand the services offered by Pub 225 and they now own a mobile bar service that provides their famous martinis & other drinks at weddings, receptions, and other offsite events. Pub 225 doesn't have a kitchen but they offer snacks & bar food such as mozzarella sticks, pizza, BBQ pulled pork bites, tater tots, and a few other finger foods. In the summertime, they offer amazing outdoor seating on their patio where they can also fire up the grill.
A new business has planted its roots in Fulton’s downtown district.
Rooted Boutique has been branching out to their customers since February 2020. Jackie Wilkin was a stay-at-home mom with a marketing degree and a passion for clothing. Wilkin started Rooted Boutique online out of her basement so she could help others choose clothing that makes them feel beautiful and confident. Being involved in local activities has always been important to Jackie and her husband, Drew. They have been in Fulton for 14 years. With the growing success of her online business, it made sense to invest in the community by opening a storefront for her boutique business. This in turn would attract others to Fulton’s historic downtown.
While the storefront was being renovated, Jackie and her sister-in-law, Kayla Wilkin, started hosting live Facebook videos every Wednesday night to a VIP group called the "Get Rooted Tribe " to show off their inventory. This proved to be a wise strategy because as the pandemic quarantine shut down other retail businesses, they continued to build their customer base offering shipping or contactless, local pick up. When renovations were complete in late August, they were ready to welcome their large customer base in person. Since then it has grown thanks to a strong social media campaign, large inventory, and great customer service. Jackie’s goal to attract others to her community has worked because she has customers from all over--including the neighboring state of Iowa.
Something for Everyone
Rooted Boutique is located on the corner of 4th and 11th Streets in Fulton’s downtown. The trendy window displays entice you to stop in and see what it has to offer. Upon walking in, I was surprised by how spacious the store was. The showroom is large, with sections of women’s, youth, and baby clothing, shoes, a line of candles, and even drinkware and home decorating items. Each section of the store displays clothing for every occasion from cozy sweaters and trendy jeans to leopard vests and adorable baby stuff. I walked through the store and admired the wide variety of clothing hand-selected by Jackie and Kayla. With fashions that vary in different styles and range in size from small to 3XL, there is something for everyone. The store also carries jewelry, a wall featuring a variety of shoe styles, purses, and the Copper Pearl brand of baby accessories.
For now, they are focusing on their storefront and expanding their regional clientele while continuing to grow their online customer base through their website and live Facebook videos every Wednesday night. Down the road, Jackie's ambition is to expand and add other locations.
Root for your customers and watch them glow
To Jackie, Rooted Boutique is more than a boutique. She takes pride in getting to know her customers and building relationships with them. Assisting her customers to pick out flattering pieces and even offering personal shopping appointments makes her unique in the world of retail. She strives to offer something for every age, body, and budget. She takes pride in helping customers add to their wardrobe or find the perfect gift.
“Being rooted in my faith, family, friends, and fashion has gotten me here. So I boldly encourage you all to Get Rooted! What’s YOUR passion? Find what you love, plant those roots deep and let us help you look great along the way!” remarks Wilkin.
Fulton has a lot to offer
While visiting downtown Fulton, make sure to check out other local businesses such as Country Orchids, a full-service floral shop providing fresh, silk, and dried flowers, and Sweet Woodruff, a woman's boutique with unique gifts, artisan items, purses, jewelry, and clothing along with home decor, candles, linens, and seasonal gifts. Krumpets is a great spot for lunch where they not only offer quiche, homemade soups, and specialty sandwiches, but pastries and desserts to die for. When the pandemic is over make sure to stroll Fulton's riverfront and check out the iconic De Immigrant Windmill, which was built to honor Fulton’s Dutch heritage, and the beautiful Windmill Cultural Center & Museum.
1021 4th Street Fulton, IL 61252
Phone: (815) 208-7370
Opened November 2020
Mount Carroll’s Historic Downtown has a new storefront, and people are lining up to get their hands on everything they have to offer. Big Miniature Farms (BMF) opened their doors in early November of 2020. They are overwhelmed by the demand for their homemade creations.
BMF was unofficially formed in the summer of 2019 by Travis and Cami Yenney when, due to an over-zealous crop of organic produce, they started selling it along with their signature horseradish jam at the local farmer's market. Even though they have backgrounds in finance, culinary school, and manual labor, Cami and Travis never intended to turn BMF into a commercial venture.
It's all about the jam
The horseradish jam was originally created by Travis to use on pork loin, but they realized it was too good to keep to themselves. When they brought their produce and jams to the area farmer’s markets, the jam always sold out and soon became a regional favorite. This enticed them to create more flavors. They experimented with using surplus jalapenos and cucumbers to create more jam flavors. Flavors named Carolina Rhubarb, Sweet Rhubarb, and Jalapeno and Cucumber Marmalade soon joined their product list.
BMF doesn’t use pesticide sprays or chemicals on their farm. This means they spend hours and hours pulling weeds and maintaining the plots. They start all plants from seed and seasonally offer a variety of peppers, beans, tomatoes, ground cherries, purple cauliflower, and zucchini.
Operating under the “Cottage Law” at local farmers' markets, they were only allowed to make certain foods in their own home to sell at markets and small fairs, but they wanted to expand their reach. It became clear that in order for them to sell commercially to restaurants they needed to have a certified commercial kitchen. After speaking with their farm loan manager, they found their small farm qualified as a specialty grower and within a few months, Big Miniature Farms was designated as a Certified Specialty Grower with the USDA.
Cami and Travis love the people of Mount Carroll and the Farmer’s Market where it all started. When they saw that the old laundromat in the heart of Mount Carroll’s historic downtown was for sale, they knew it was perfect. The three apartments upstairs helped the investment with offsetting any costs for the business. In April of 2020, they purchased the property located at 120 West Market Street. After seven months of hard labor, a few setbacks, and many late nights, the commercial kitchen space and remodeled apartments were finished and ready.
A walk-up window for excellent service
Now that the commercial kitchen is open, they are looking at commercial outlets for their cheesecakes and jams. They are now in the process of remodeling the basement of the building in order to grow microgreens and salad greens year-round. Because they are a commercial kitchen they are not able to offer indoor seating. However, with the placement of doors in the building they were able to add a window and counter for walk-up service. Since opening, they have had an overwhelming response and a steady stream of customers.
Not your ordinary jams & cheesecakes
Horseradish Jam – Their #1 seller, is sweet and offers all the horseradish flavor without the heat. It's great on pork or any meat and their vegan friends love it on vegetables. They have customers who put it in meatloaf and even on cold sandwiches.
Jalapeno Jam - This jam is all about the jalapeno flavor and is slightly spicy. Nothing is added to make it hotter; the heat comes from the jalapenos.
Cucumber Marmalade - The cucumber and lime marmalade is excellent on graham crackers or warmed up and drizzled over ice cream. It is also a great addition to hot dogs or brats as a sweet relish.
Carolina Rhubarb Jam - This jam is made with Carolina Reapers (an extremely hot chile pepper) and rhubarb. It is HOT. Customers love it on chicken, over cream cheese, and even as a topping on their cheesecake.
Sweet Rhubarb Jam - This jam was created because an older gentleman was looking for a rhubarb jam similar to what his deceased wife used to make for him. His sweet request touched Trent and Cami and the sweet rhubarb jam was born. Good news - he absolutely loved it and so did everyone else. It is one of their best sellers!
Cheesecakes - They make mini cheesecakes and 10" cheesecakes. Specialty orders are taken on request and are willing to entertain any flavor idea--except peanuts. They are a peanut-free kitchen due to their son, Brandon, having a severe peanut allergy. Not surprisingly, their cheesecakes are a best seller.
Hours & Location
120 West Market Street
Mount Carroll Historic District, IL 61053, US
Monday: 2 PM - 7 PM
Wednesday: 2 PM - 7 PM
Saturday: 10 AM - 2 PM
Sweet Revival is worth the trip
Sweet Revival is located in the unincorporated town of Kings, in Ogle County on Rt. 64. This beautiful former church is full of treasures, delicious gourmet coffee, and chocolate treats. Open for 5-1/2 years, Sweet Revival Antiques is a unique shop featuring antiques, collectibles, vintage finds, and gifts, as well as a gourmet coffee bar and chocolate counter. Upon arriving in Kings -- population 215 -- Sweet Revival would be hard to miss. The 1862 Greek Revival Church, with an addition added in 1915, stands tall with sage siding, ivory windows, and a welcoming front entrance. The sign reads, “Coffee, Sweets, Antiques," where you will find all of these elements inside.
The church building was moved from its original site in 1887 when the town's founder believed the community needed a church. The current building remains much as it was in 1915. However, the woodwork, floors, stained glass windows, and tin ceiling in the basement are all original from 1862.
From a church to coffee, sweets, and antiques
The current owner, Laura Fitch, bought the building in 2009. She saw an opportunity to give new life to a wonderful piece of history. A former teacher and mother of five, her goal is to offer a gathering place where people can enjoy great coffee while browsing through an eclectic mix of antiques and unique treasures.
Entering the historic building, you can immediately smell the gourmet coffee bar. Espresso and the scent of chocolate fill the air. Distracted from the antiques, I headed to the coffee bar to grab a latte before I started hunting for treasures.
Laura greets us with a smile as we stare at the chalkboard menu, listing all of the specialty drinks. Featured drinks such as S’mores Latte, Peppermint Mocha, Pumpkin Pie Latte, and fruit smoothies are neatly written across the board. Two house-favorite drinks are a caramel turmeric latte made with turmeric elixir, a touch of caramel syrup, and steamed milk. The other is a breve -- espresso with steamed half and half. We order our drinks and admire the church as the sun shines through the arched stained glass windows reflecting multi-colored hues onto the 150-year-old original hardwood floors. A gathering area features a couch and fireplace, the perfect place to enjoy coffee with friends.
“I believe that this building was meant to be shared and bring joy to people, and I hope to do that every day,” said Fitch.
We take our time walking through the main level and the historic church's basement, hand selecting a few one-of-a-kinds finds to take home with us. The owners rent space to a few vendors who have specialty items to contribute, but they primarily pick their own treasures, so the shop reflects their style and passion for the unique. They currently have plenty of Christmas decor and those perfect gifts you need for the holidays.
Finding Sweet Revival (when GPS fails you)
If you are trying to find this shop for the first time, your GPS may not recognize Kings. Never fear!
If you are coming from the east, take Illinois Hwy 64 approximately 30 minutes west from Sycamore or come from the west, drive 15 minutes east from Oregon until you see a railroad crossing. They are in the old church building right on the highway. If you're coming from Rockford, take I-39 or Illinois Rt 251 south to Hwy 64. Turn right and travel until you see a small group of houses. You've reached Kings. There they are - right next to the tracks.
Take a road trip on Rt. 64
While there isn't much else in the town of Kings, Sweet Revival is a wonderful stop as part of a day spent antiquing in this part of northern Illinois. If you stay on Illinois Rt 64, you'll discover other unique shops in Oregon, Lanark, Mt Carroll, and Savanna. When you need a fun day out or a weekend trip, our area of NW Illinois has plenty of antique shops to choose from!
Holiday Hours May Vary. Please call for details.
Wednesday: 10:00 AM - 05:00 PM
Thursday: 10:00 AM - 05:00 PM
Friday: 10:00 AM - 05:00 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM - 05:00 PM
Sweet Revival Antiques
12554 E. IL Route 64
Kings, IL 61068
Open since 1948
The Rink at Pine Creek, formerly known as White Pines Roller Skating Rink, has been a staple in northwest Illinois for over 70 years.
The White Pines Skating Palace was built by Clyde Wishard in 1947 and opened to the public in 1948. The building started life as an old airplane hanger brought in from Minnesota in large pieces and reassembled on site. For many years the entire front of the building facing the road had huge windows that opened up to allow guests an option to sit in their car and watch the skaters.
Starting a new chapter
In December of 2019, Rebecca Jones, a young, ambitious entrepreneur, jumped on the opportunity to purchase the 72-year-old landmark. She currently owns the neighboring properties that include the Pine Creek Canyon wedding venue and Pine Creek Cabins. When it came up for sale, she saw it as a prime opportunity to expand her business plan since the peak season for roller skating is in the winter when her other businesses are in their offseason.
“I also love being able to provide a safe place for kids to hang out and exercise. Especially in these times, kids need a place they can blow off some stress and be themselves," remarks Rebecca.
Rebecca plans to bring life back to the exterior of the property by having a mural painted to honor some of its history and previous owners. The original marble floor that covers the skating area is in impeccable shape. There isn't a crack in it, which makes for a great skating experience.
Postcard dated 1967
Roller skating history
Roller skating was invented in 1735 and has continued to be popular for all ages. Roller skating was first seen in theatrical performances and then became popular recreationally and used in sports such as roller derby. Throughout the ages, roller skating has been a fun activity for families and date nights. October is also National Roller Skating Month.
“The most recent owner, Dave Johnson, owned it for over 30 years before passing it on to me. The Rink has a lot of history and a lot of people have fond memories here. My grandmother used to go there in high school, and her sister met her husband there. It has been a lot of fun to hear all the stories of how The Rink has played a part in so many lives over the years," said Rebecca.
Rebecca has full intentions of continuing to operate the iconic roller rink as it has been since 1948. She is also coming up with some new ideas and updates to make the experience better with themed skate nights such as Glow Skate, Adult Skate Night, Wacky Weekends, and an upcoming Halloween themed Late Skate. It is also available to rent for private parties, birthdays, and other events. You can find their schedule and upcoming events on their Facebook page--link at the bottom of the article.
Snacks and arcade
After you've done a few laps around the rink, stop at the snack counter for some nachos or candy. Need to take a break from skating? Hit up the expansive arcade area full of fun games to keep both kids and adults entertained. Tickets can be turned in at the snack counter with plenty of prizes to choose from.
- Adult Skate Night | Thursday, October 22 | 7:00 – 9:00 pm | Ages 21+ only | Requests all night
- Glow Skate | Saturday, October 24 | 7:00 – 11:00 pm | Lights out, free glow sticks!
- Christian Skate Night | First Thursday of every month 6:00 – 8:00 pm | $3 Admission
- Kiddie Halloween Bash | Saturday, October 31 | 1:00 – 4:00 pm | $5 Admission | Costume Contest, Halloween themed games & prizes, candy dish at 4 pm
- Halloween Late Skate | Saturday, October 31 | 7:00 pm – 1:00 am | $10 Admission | Costume contest, mummy races, free glowsticks, and more!
The hours change seasonally and are based on their event schedule. The current normal operating hours are:
Friday: 7:00-10:00 pm
Saturday: 1:00-5:00 pm & 7:00-11:00 pm
Sunday: 1:00-5:00 pm
The Rink at Pine Creek
6929 W Pines Rd.
Mount Morris, IL 61054
Phone: (815) 946-9988
It’s not your ordinary golf course
Outside of Byron and located inside the award-winning PrairieView Golf Club lies a new, year-round way to enjoy golf. PrairieFire Golf & Grill is complete with a full-service kitchen, outdoor fire pits, cozy and modern interior, and eight heated bays equipped with top of the line technology. This Toptracer® equipped range facility is the first of its kind in the region. It’s an eight-bay range with indoor and outdoor temperature-controlled hitting bays that allows you to hit actual golf balls onto a real targeted outdoor range.
You can even get digital feedback through the Toptracer® app and choose prestigious virtual courses in different states and even other countries.
Year-round golf | Golf nirvana
“I’m really looking forward to the cozy ambiance and bringing year-round golf to PrairieView. The ability to run numerous contests and games with Toptracer® Range will make for an exciting and engaging atmosphere!” --Andrew Schlupp, Head PGA Professional, PrairieView Golf Club
The 18-hole PrairieView Golf Club is part of the Byron Forest Preserve District located in the rolling hills along the Rock River with plenty of natural areas to explore during all seasons. You can also visit the Jarrett Prairie Center Museum that boasts fantastic views of the Nature Preserve, or view the planets, moon, and stars in the J. Weiskopf Observatory.
Industrial meets rustic design
Upon stepping through the giant double glass doors, I was in awe of the interior design inside of PrairieFire Golf & Grill. It’s a mix of cozy and industrial with just the right amount of rustic accents to honor the nature preserve. Each bay mirrors itself with comfy sectionals with off-white cushions and bronze industrial bar tables. I slid my hand across the grained bar tops, later finding out that the bar tops are built from live-edge wood harvested inside the nature preserve. Interior fireplaces matched with matte black ceilings and trim gives off a high-end, luxurious feel. The sprawling patio/hitting bays offer plenty of relaxed seating areas with fire pits that make you want to stay all afternoon.
PrairieFire Grill satisfies thirsts and appetites
It was easy to get wrapped up in the entire experience, but after swinging for a few practice rounds, we worked up an appetite. The carefully designed menu has names honoring the prairie and plenty of options for shareables with friends. Our waitress immediately recommended the Loaded PrairieFire Fries, a pile of seasoned waffle fries covered in seasoned bison, beer cheese, blistered tomatoes, grilled onions, and their signature PrairieFire sauce--then topped with jalapenos (yum!). We took her up on her recommendation along with an order of the bison sliders and continued our golf game, aiming at the targets and seeing who could hit furthest.
While seated at the copper-top bar, you can choose from a large selection of domestic beers along with seasonal craft beer on tap and fancy cocktails - anything you need to drown your sorrows after losing a close match or celebrating a team victory with friends. Order up for lunch or dinner and stay awhile for a few rounds of golf and drinks.
Track your game & play on courses around the world
Toptracer® technology at PrairieFire Golf + Grill features an exciting suite of games and modes suited for all ages and golfing skill levels. If you’re a single-digit handicapper, you can work on your game and challenge players around the world. But, even if you’ve never been on a real golf course in your life, you’ll still have fun – and you’ll probably be hooked for life. From the Long Drive Competition to Closest To The Pin, to playing world-famous courses like Bethpage Black and Pebble Beach, you’ll love how Toptracer ®’s advanced analytics help you fine-tune your swing in the high tech bays. Toptracer® analyzes your ball’s path, speed, spin, apex, curve, carry, total distance, and more.
Guests can compete against friends, play virtual courses and games, and receive instant shot feedback on interactive game screens inside and outside.
Whether you’re a single-digit handicapper or a casual player who rarely counts your strokes, there are digital Toptracer ® Range games and modes for small groups and large parties. It’s digital, interactive fun regardless of your golf skill levels. If golfing isn’t your thing, but you want to join friends for an afternoon or night of fun, no problem, each bay has it’s own fire pit, lounge seating, and TV monitors for you to enjoy PrairieFire whichever way suits you.
Reserve your Bay
Reserve your very own bay online and play when you want, with whomever you want. Reservations can be made online up to 7 days in advance and at least 1 hour before arrival at PrairieFire. Not a big planner? Walk-in guests are always welcome, but reservations are encouraged on weekends as it gets quite busy.
Hours of Operation
Contact & Reservations
PrairieFire Golf & Grill
6734 N German Church Rd
Byron, IL 61010
phone: 815-234-3473 (FIRE)
A pre-Civil War era home of historical significance in Sterling
The home was originally built in 1858 for Civil War Brigadier General, Edward Needles Kirk. The Kirks had plans to raise a large family in the home, but when Edward died from a wound sustained at the Battle of Stone’s River, his wife Eliza returned to Pennsylvania.
After going through several owners, the home was purchased in 1882 by Washington Dillon. The Dillons were the owners and founders of Northwestern Steel & Wire in Sterling, a company that produced barbed wire, bale ties, drawn wire, and nails.
The home is a work of Italianate architecture and European furnishings
Built in 1858, this Italianate Architecture-style home has gone through a few changes and several owners, but is still filled with original treasures that are virtually untouched by time. When it comes to local history, this is a must-see. The exterior of the home is impressive with large windows and fenced grounds. The inside of the home is remarkable. The Dillons were avid collectors of beautiful and eclectic pieces from around the world including chandeliers, furniture, and art. The home retains all of the original belongings and furnishings of the family. It was given to the Sterling Park District after P.W.'s passing in 1980.
The home is full of unique treasures imported from around the world. Some of the pieces found throughout the home include light fixtures that date back to the 1920s, a grandfather clock in the sitting room dates to 1730, a Baccarat Crystal Chandelier that came out of a castle in Europe, and eccentric wallpaper from New York. The first thing you see when entering the front doors is the grand suspended staircase. It is the heart of the home. The beautiful solid mahogany banister was likely one of the largest financial investments when building the home.
Walking through the home, you can envision what life with the Dillons was like in the 1880s. The original furnishings are still in the same place they were arranged, untouched by time. The entire home is decorated in wallpaper, as that was considered a proof of wealth at that time. The formal West Parlor is found as you turn the corner. Filled with Italian silk drapes, feminine furniture, and muted pink accents, this room was Mrs. Dillon’s pride and joy. The oversized, stunning chandelier is marked Baccarat Crystal which came out of a castle in Europe. Both fireplace mantels are carved from Italian marble. Nearly everything in the parlor was imported from France or Europe as Mrs. Dillon loved Paris.
The Little Engine that did
In 1936, Washington Dillon's son, P.W. Dillon installed two electric furnaces and rolling machines in the barbed wire factory in order to make low carbon steel. The systems and furnaces were successively upgraded in the ensuing years. During World War II, to keep up with escalating demand, two 50-ton electric furnaces were installed. By 1950, 150-ton furnaces were in use. Throughout the years, as production increased, larger furnaces became the norm.
Northwestern Steel’s steam engines were among the last to operate in the United States. The Dillons used steam locomotives to move scrap metal to the furnaces to transfer hot ingots to the rolling machines, long after the era of steam engines was bygone in the broader culture. The engine, No. 73, outlived many of it’s working companions and now sits on the Dillon property. Built in 1929, No. 73 was one of 1,400 steam engines bought for scrap to feed the furnaces of the steel mill shortly after World War II. Though it was not economical to run the steam locomotive, P.W. was reluctant to give up using them because of his true passion for them.
No. 73 was lifted via four cranes to its final resting place behind the Dillon Home as a memorial to P.W. Dillon, the man who kept the idea of steam engines alive for more than twenty years. No. 73 was the last working steam locomotive to be used in an industrial application in the United States.
A tourism mecca -- both locally and abroad
While Erin Thompson, the curator of the Dillon Home, gave me a tour, I asked about tourists visiting the home and was told, "We get a lot of local/regional people coming through the house. They always remark that they drive by this house every day and decided to stop and check it out. It’s very typical to not notice a tourist attraction if it’s in your own back yard. All of the local folks are so glad they took the tour and tell me how great it is to learn all the history about the steel mill, the Dillon family, and our community. On the other hand, I’ve had people from Germany, France, Mexico, and all over the United States come to visit."
Trip Advisor has been a great tool in helping promote the home as well. It gives people passing through the area a list of popular attractions – The Dillon Home is ranked #1. The Dillon Home is also the number one attraction for the area on Google.
The Dillon Home typically has a Haunted Train Walk in October and a Christmas Walk the first weekend of December. Due to COVID-19, those events are canceled this year, but hopefully next year they will be back in full swing.
L-R: 1922. Martin, Crete, daughter Crete, Jane, and P.W. Dillon
As a blogger, I always like to make the blogs personal and learn more about the people behind the business so I always like to ask what it is they want people to know about the business from an insider view and this is how Erin responded:
"It is very special that the home retains all of the original furnishings. Nothing has been approximated or simulated, this is exactly how the Dillon family lived, and so the tour through the home is a completely authentic experience. P.W.’s grandson, Pete Dillon, drops by on occasion and we’ll sit in the kitchen talking for hours. He loves telling me about the steel mill and about his family. I get to then pass these wonderful stories onto our guests, and sharing this history with people means the world to me. I want visitors to the Dillon Home to feel like they are a part of this house and this history."
Tours and Information - social distancing required
The Dillon Home is available for weddings and other events. The manicured and spacious grounds, fountains, and two-story enclosed porch is the perfect setting to any occasion. Each tour is limited to six guests to ensure proper social distancing while going through the home. There are only five tours a day. It is recommended to call in advance to book a time. Masks must be worn at all times while inside the home. If you do not have a mask, one will be provided at no cost.
Guided tours are on the hour during regular business hours, or by private group reservation.
Erin Thompson, Curator
Phone: (815) 622-6202
Sterling Rock Falls Historical Society: (815) 622-6215
10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. & 3:00 p.m.
5 & under: Free
Age 6 through Adult: $5.00
Senior (60+): $4.00