Architecture Adventure in Two Rivers, WI

View from the stairs.

Our weekend started with a pleasant, almost fall-like, drive from Saint Paul to Two Rivers, Wisconsin. We had a wedding to attend in this quaint town. The drive took about five hours and was smooth sailing with little road construction (at this time). The trees had started turning and there was an abundance of nice Wisconsin farms alongside the road. We arrived in Two Rivers and checked into our hotel on the Lake Michigan waterfront. The hotel wasn’t great, but the location was. We were within walking distance of the historic downtown and only about 5 minutes from the wedding location.

The wedding was held at the Bernard Schwartz House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This example of his Usonian style houses was completed in 1940 and Wright referred to the house as “Still Bend.” The horizontal lines were prominent throughout the brick, wood and concrete home, and the built-in desks and furniture, decorative wood detailing at the windows and lights screamed Frank Lloyd Wright. We were able to experience the house during the day and at night and though, in my opinion the house wasn’t cozy, it did have some fine details and was a respectable house designed by an infamous (though respected) architect. Its concrete floors were a nice touch, especially with it being a historic home (before concrete was really discovered as a flooring type for a living space). The second floor was about 95 percent wood, — floors, walls, doors, railing, etc. Artificial lighting inside was minimal, but during the day, sunshine came in through the many windows. Each room upstairs also has access to an exterior deck and walls of glass mixed in with the wood. It was a great quiet location for a small, casual wedding with a nice green yard, stairs to the adjacent river and cranes sending their call throughout the day.

Between the wedding ceremony and reception, a few of us headed into town to grab some ice cream at the Washington House Museum and Visitor’s Center. They had 16 flavors to choose from and we received a warm welcome when we walked in. Two Rivers (we learned) is after all home of the Ice Cream Sundae! The wedding was held the same day as Two Rivers’ Ethnic Festival with food, music, crafts and gifts. Though we didn’t have time to visit the festival, it seemed to be a big to-do, shutting down the main street through town and requiring a detour around downtown. It not being a very “ethnic” town, residents enjoy the festival, but also poke a bit of fun at it. Other highlights during our short stay were a visit to the Hamilton Wood Type Museum where they have 1.5 million pieces of wood type and still produce various pieces of the type made from Rock Maple. Both the Museum Director and Assistant Director were extremely friendly, knowledgeable and eager to show us what their museum has to offer. The museum had various machines and pieces of equipment, working seminars and classes, souvenirs, artist’s prints, furniture and more. I highly recommend a visit to this museum. Our trip wasn’t complete without having breakfast (two days in a row) at one of the only breakfast places in town, the M&M Lunch and Catering Restaurant. This was a great place to go for breakfast on the cheap. Their pancakes were huge, though the booths a bit small; it was also within walking distance from our hotel.

Overall, Two Rivers was a really cute, albeit historically industrial, town on two rivers at the Lake Michigan coast. People were friendly, attitudes were laid back, and the town had a quite a bit of history to go along with its historic factory buildings and downtown.