Stay a while
There is much to see and do while in the Portage area. Historic sites and museums are accompanied by various cultural outlets and a calendar year full of events, leaving just one question: What to do first?
Purchase a city history pass for $20 (image at right) and see all seven of the historical attractions at an overall reduced rate! The pass can be purchased from the Portage Chamber or any of the seven attractions: Portage Center for the Arts, Fort Winnebago Surgeons Quarters, Historic Indian Agency House, Women's Civic League Home, American Legion State Headquarters & Museum, Portage World War II History Museum, and Museum at the Portage.
- The only remaining building of historic Fort Winnebago, the Surgeons Quarters is one of the oldest log houses in Wisconsin still standing on its original foundation. The log house is fully refurbished as a home of the army occupation days, with authentic artifacts from the fort.
- The Historic Indian Agency House, built in 1832, is one of Wisconsin's earliest houses still in existence. It was constructed as a residence for John Kinzie, the Indian Agent to the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago), and his wife, Juliette Kinzie. After 100 years of varied use, the house was restored to its 1832 frontier grandeur and officially reopened in 1932.
- The William L. and Zona Gale Breese home was donated to the city of Portage in 1946 and housed the Portage Public Library until 1994. In 1996, the Museum at the Portage was established to showcase displays relevant to the history of the city. Within the Museum, visitors will find Zona Gale's study preserved and a permanent collection of photographs and artifacts depicting historical events that occurred in the city.
- The American Legion State Headquarters building includes a museum, which houses such historical relics as statues, uniforms, medals, photos and documents from the history of Wisconsin’s American Legion, as well as war era memorabilia.
- After the successful publication of her first novel in 1906, Zona Gale built a home for her parents on the bank of the Wisconsin River. Its classical Greek revival exterior is in contrast to its rustic Craftsman interior. Gale’s 1920 bestselling novel, Miss Lulu Bett, landed her the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 and her home was given to the Women’s Civic League in 1932.
- While you are in downtown Portage, be sure to stop at the World War II History Museum. Everyone is sure to find something that will appeal to them along the guided tour. Visitors will see many authentic, rare artifacts and learn about many facets of the war, including the sacrifices made by the greatest generation. The museum's collection is ever-expanding with incredible rare artifacts.
- Portage Center for the Arts supports a fine tradition of culture in our community with theatrical performances, art displays, and a performing arts series.
- Containing six early churches and many prestigious homes built between 1855 and 1930, the Church Hill District is only two blocks from the downtown area.
- Society Hill, a residential district of 138 buildings, was home to the city's early prominent citizens. Many of the buildings are made of yellow Portage brick and were constructed between 1870 and 1910. Society Hill contains the homes of two Pulitzer Prize winners; playwright Zona Gale and historian Jackson Turner.
- As a trade center for central Wisconsin, the downtown retail district was a beehive of activity as early as the 1860s. Many of the buildings have been preserved in their original Victorian architecture, providing a colorful background for the busy retail area today.
- The Portage Canal, a connector of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, was finished in 1876 and at its peak for recreational boat traffic in 1908. By 1950, the number of lockages had dwindled, and the following year, the Portage locks were welded shut.
- Located to the northeast and east of Portage is a fairly large Amish community. Amish are well known for their beautiful handmade quilts, baskets, furniture and many other items. Amish businesses in this region include bakeries, furniture and cabinet making shops, quilt shops and general stores. Click here for a map.
Visitors in town overnight are afforded a selection of comfortable lodging facilities, sure to make any stay memorable. Several full-service hotels and motels offer much in the way of modern amenities, both inside the room and out. Guests also choose between private rental cottages, as well as high quality campgrounds for those looking for a more rustic environment. Visit the Portage Area Chamber of Commerce’s online Membership Directory at www.portagewi.com for a list of referred lodgers.
Check out other attractions in Columbia & Sauk counties by clicking the logo below.
Barn Quilts of Columbia County celebrate the agricultural heritage of our county through the beauty and warmth of quilting art. Click on the image below for more information.