We’ll start our tour of Green County in the village of Brooklyn. Incorporated in 1905, Brooklyn was supposed to be named York Township, but delegates arrived too late at the County Seat. “York” was already taken by another village, and they had to resort to their second choice.
Heading South on Rutland Avenue will take you through the heart of town. The small “downtown” area is built around the Brooklyn Community building constructed in 1938. The building has an indoor gymnasium which can be reserved by town members for recreation.
Here in the center of town, you’ll also find the Anchor Club, an unpretentious bar with a pool table. For over 60 years they’ve been serving up burgers and cold beers to locals and passers-through. The interior is decorated with vintage bar signs and advertisements.
Main Street Music, located just to the west of the Anchor Club, is a popular spot to catch sets from local and touring country, rock, and blues artists. Realtor Rick Corey is a former owner of the venue, and highly recommends checking it out. With an old-school Nashville vibe, Main Street Music is a great place to grab a beer and rock out with friends old and new.
When you get to Church Street, take a left. Heading through the south side of town, you’ll pass by Smithfield Park, one of Brooklyn's three public recreation spots. Water Tower Park, on the north end of town, is just what it sounds like – an open green space at the foot of the town’s water tower. Legion Park, on the west side of the railroad tracks, features a full baseball field with bleachers and a pair of tennis courts. Smithfield park, on the left side of the road, is home to a basketball court, a picnic pavilion, and a jungle gym.
Keep on heading down this road – you’ll take a right on US Route 14 to reach Evansville, the next town on our list.
Sitting on the border of Green County and Rock County, Evansville is home to dozens of historic homes and buildings. The state historical society calls this small city “the finest collection of 1840s to 1915 architecture of any small town in Wisconsin.”
We start our drive through Evansville on the north end, turning right on Madison Street and crossing the railroad tracks to pass Leonard Leota Park. The Park is the largest of six city parks in Evansville, built along the banks of Lake Leota.
The lake is available for canoeing and electric motorboating, as well as ice skating and ice fishing in the winter. The annual Fourth of July celebration is held here in the park, and the city has provided plenty of amenities to keep Evansville residents entertained. With baseball and softball diamonds, basketball and tennis courts, hiking trails, picnic areas, and a public pool, it’s a great place for citizens of all ages to exercise, play, and relax.
Driving into the center of town, take a right on Main street to check out Evansville’s downtown area and historic district.
The intersection of Madison and Main represents the commercial center of Evansville, home to shops, restaurants, and bars. Pete’s Inn, on the left side of Madison, is the local pool hall and watering hole, serving sandwiches, giant pretzels, and cold beers. For a more family-friendly establishment, check out the Main Street cafe for classic diner food, pizza, and Tex-Mex favorites.
The building on your left is one of the most well-known examples of prairie-style architecture in southern Wisconsin. The Eager Free Public Library was constructed in 1908 by the Madison-based firm Claude and Starck. The building features stained glass windows and plaster friezes, indicative of the architectural school that would launch Frank Lloyd Wright’s career.
On each corner of this intersection, you’ll see an example of a different architectural style. “Tower House”, across from the library, is a Victorian “painted lady” home. Across 2nd street, the funeral home on the left is an example of greek revival design and the masonic temple on the right was once a High Victorian Gothic manor.
As you continue down Main Street, you’ll see houses in a variety of styles from the 19th and early twentieth centuries. Taking a right on Fourth Street up ahead will take you out the east side of town and toward our next stop. On the way, I’ll tell you a little about Evansville’s history.
Evansville is most famously known for an outbreak of mob violence at the end of the first World War. On Armistice Day in 1918, a small group of Evansville citizens elected to punish those in the town they deemed unpatriotic. Folks who hadn’t purchased a sufficient number of war bonds, even those who simply couldn’t afford to, were rounded up and forced to wear sleighbells and dance around a bonfire. A 73-year old woman was placed in an animal cage, even though she had donated heavily to support the Red Cross. Luckily, the majority of citizens did not support the riot and organized quickly to rescue their neighbors from the mob.
Like many cities in this part of the country, Evansville grew up around a railway station on the Chicago and North Western line. Evansville was a manufacturing center for train carriages, wagons, water pumps, and cast iron parts. Also like many cities in this part of the country, it has produced its share of dairy products.
Evansville is also home to the Evansville Wildlife Area, a 707-acre swath of protected lands along the banks of Allen Creek. It’s a great spot for hiking and fishing in the summer, as well as cross-country skiing and birdwatching. The area is especially notable for its pheasant hunting, and foraging for wild edibles has become particularly popular in recent years.
When you reach state road 104, take a left and follow the GPS directions to Albany, the next community on our list.
I know what you’re thinking – first Brooklyn, and now Albany? What is this, New York? As it turns out, much of Green County was settled by folks from New York and New England in the early 1800s. Albany is called the “Pearl of the Sugar River” and is situated at the joining of the Little Sugar River and the main waterway.
Albany Lake, where the two rivers meet, sits at the southern end of a vast wildlife area that covers over 1,400 acres of marsh and floodplain. Much like the wildlife area in Evansville, the area is partially open for hunting and trapping, as well as seasonal activities like hiking, fishing, and cross-country skiing. The lake is a popular spot for ice fishing and is home to panfish, northern pike, and largemouth bass.
Albany is home to four public parks. American Legion Park, at the north end of town, consists of a single baseball diamond overlooking the river. Across the water, Village park also features a baseball diamond, as well as a lawn and picnic pavilion. Bowman Park is a small waterfront space with a boat ramp, and Tower Park, on Main Street, has a jungle gym and footpaths around the base of the town’s water tower.
Let’s take a little detour down water street to see Albany's shops and restaurants. Take a right on Main, and a right on Water before the bridge. Water Street is one-way, so you’ll end up making a full circle back to Mechanic Street. Along the way, you’ll see Albany mainstays like Bobanna’s Pizza, Center Tavern, and the Dam Near Home bar and grill.
On the right side of the street, you’ll see the Sugar River General Store, downtown Albany’s favorite spot for ice cream, fresh-squeezed lemonade, coffee, and sub sandwiches. If you feel like a quick pick-me-up, try their “twisted coffee”, an ice cream float made with soft serve and cold brew.
Continuing down water street, you’ll pass the Albertson Memorial Library on the right – hang a right on Madison street just after you pass it to get back to Mechanic Street.
In terms of recreation, Albany has a couple of attractions to keep you and your family entertained. S&B Tubing is located next to the Bowman Park boat ramp, with rentals on inner tubes for as low as 5 bucks per person. For an additional fee, you can grab a tube for your cooler and sip cold beverages as you lazily float down the Sugar River. On rainy days, head to Albany Lanes and bowl to your heart’s content.
Mechanic Street will take you out the south side of town, where you’ll follow highway E along the Sugar River to our next destination.
Just north of the town of Brodhead is the Three Waters Reserve, a designated area of prairie restoration operated by the Southern Wisconsin Land Conservancy. The Reserve was once the home of the Decatur Lake Golf Course, which was sold to the Conservancy in 2018.
Prairie conservation in Wisconsin has been a major undertaking over the course of the last decade. The natural state of much of the midwest, the term prairie refers to wide swaths of grassland that teem with life and provide vital ecosystems for thousands of species of birds, mammals, pollinating insects, and unique plants. However, agriculture and suburban sprawl have all but eliminated natural prairies in the midwest – only about 4 percent of tallgrass prairies remain untouched in the US today.
To help protect this diverse ecosystem, conservation groups have been organizing across the midwest to protect remnant prairies and seed new ones. Three Waters has worked to turn the former golf course into a biodiversity hotspot. Invasive zoysia grasses have been replaced with native prairie grasses like milkweed and India grass. The Conservancy also works to protect the marshes that hug the banks of Decatur Lake.
Three Waters has turned the old clubhouse of the golf course into a reservable event space. Weddings, reunions, and business retreats can all be held against the beautiful backdrop of the natural prairie landscape. They offer a full food and beverage catering service, with a focus on healthy and ethically raised farm-to-table fare.
Decatur Lake is also home to two public parks. Across the river, you’ll find Decatur Park, with wooded hiking trails, and just downstream is Headgates park, with a boat launch, walking paths, and a historic covered bridge.
Heading further down Golf Course Road, you’ll cross the path of the Sugar River State Recreation Trail, built along the path of an abandoned rail line. Beginning in Brodhead, the trail runs north along the river to Albany Lake, where it merges with the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and meanders along the Little Sugar River to points northwest. The trail is an excellent spot for hiking, biking, and cross country skiing.
When you reach the end of Golf Course Road, take a right on E and follow the GPS into town, where you'll hang another right on 1st Center Avenue.
Welcome to Brodhead! You may have noticed Legion Park on your way into town – the largest of five city parks. Legion is the site of the town water tower and features three baseball diamonds and a multi-purpose athletic field. The second-largest park, located in the neighborhood to your right, is Putnam Park, where the Brodhead Municipal Pool offers a spot to cool down on hot summer days.
According to local lore, Brodhead was created during an argument between two nearby towns over who would get a train station. Rather than choose a side, the railroad company elected to split the difference, and a new city formed around their depot. Brodhead may also be the first city in Wisconsin to have an electrical power grid – the hydroelectric dam at Decatur Lake was up and running before larger cities like Chicago even had power.
Towards the center of town, 1st Central Avenue is lined with restaurants, shops, and bars. The Brodhead Mall, located on the right side, is stuffed to the gills with unique antiques and curios for sale. On the left, Bridges Bar and Grill is a local favorite, serving burgers, sandwiches, and personal pizzas. Their garlic cheese curds are a real treat!
The intersection of Central and Exchange street is the site of the town square, featuring the Bank of Brodhead, Fib’s North, an upscale American restaurant, and several small businesses. Continue south on Central to see the Veterans’ Memorial park on your left. Home to the Brodhead Historical Society, the small museum on the north end of the park features a train engine and a decommissioned M60A3 tank. The southern end of the park has a picnic pavilion, a jungle gym, and several benches for relaxing on a sunny day.
Brodhead is home to the headquarters of Kuhn North America, one of the U.S.’ largest manufacturers of agricultural machinery. Another major employer in Brodhead is Stoughton Trailers, which operates their cargo container manufacturing plant here on the south side of town.
The south end of the city is also home to Brodhead’s school system, with three public schools – Albrecht Elementary, Brodhead Middle, and Brodhead High – clustered around a large shared athletic complex.
Keep heading south, following the GPS to Brodhead’s airport.
We take this little detour by the airport to point out an interesting historical marker here on the outskirts of town. But first, the airport itself is actually home to a small aviation museum featuring antique planes from the early days of powered flight. They also have a couple neat antique automobiles and are planning to expand to include an aviation reference library and art gallery.
At the end of Aviation Road, turn right onto Halfway Tree Road. Directly across the street from the intersection, you’ll see the Half Way Tree, located inside a circular fence in the field on the left.
The Half Way Tree is a mature Bur Oak that marks the midpoint of an ancient Indian footpath between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. Though modern satellite mapping places the actual halfway point about six miles away, this spot was a significant campground for Oneida people as they traveled overland to the Sugar River. In the late 1800s, the local farmer was implored by an Indian chief to never cut down the tree, and it has been standing proudly in this field since, even though the trail hasn’t been used since the spring of 1878.
Continuing on, you’ll take a right at the end of the road and follow 81 back to State Route 11, where you’ll turn left to cross the river and exit Brodhead. Clarence Bridge Park, located just across the river, is a public green space with a boat launch ramp. Farther down the road, past the park entrance, you’ll find Sugar River Speedway, a go-kart track.
Hungry for Apples? Ten Eyck Orchard, on the right side of the road, has borne fruit since 1839, with six generations of the Ten Eyck family still running the show today. From August to November they pick and sell over 50 varieties of apple, plus pears, pumpkins, and home-baked goods. They also grow a corn maze for classic fall fun.
Our trip along Highway 11 will take a few minutes. Along the way to Monroe, you’ll pass by Juda, an unincorporated community of some 400 residents.
Since we have a few minutes of driving to do, I’d love to take the opportunity to tell you a little about Green County’s history. Early American explorers of this part of Wisconsin called the country a “sculpted land” because of the presence of innumerable earthworks and prehistoric mounds. The mound builders lived sometime before the year 1200, and their names and many of their works are now lost to time. Early and Middle Woodland people built earthworks in straight lines or conical formations, but by around 750 they had begun sculpting effigy mounds in the form of people and animals.
The mounds of Green County have been all but lost, but neighboring Dane and Rock Counties have preserved examples. It isn’t certain which First Nations peoples are descendants of the Builders, but the Ho-Chunk claim to their legacy is rarely disputed.
Green County was incorporated from Wisconsin Territory in 1837, and named for the lush green growth along the banks of the Sugar River. Even though an attempt to add an ‘e’ to the end of the county name, in honor of revolutionary general Nathaniel Greene, was thwarted, many people still consider the county to be his namesake. From then until now, its modern history has remained relatively uneventful – its reputation for highly productive agriculture and peaceful small-town flavor has remained intact for almost 200 years.
Our next stop will be Green County’s largest city and county seat, Monroe.
Visible behind the row of houses on your right you’ll see the wide-open space of the Green County fairgrounds (or the bustling Green County Fair, depending on what time of year you’re taking this tour). The County Fair takes place in July and hosts tons of fun rides, contests, and attractions. The tractor pull is one of the most popular events, featuring farm machines of up to 18,000 pounds!
The fairground is also home to a semiannual antique and flea market in June and September. The Picker’s market features vendors from all over the state, plus an arts and crafts show in the fall.
Continuing down 13th street will give you a good feel for residential life in this quiet Midwestern city. When you reach the end of the road, make a left on 20th. This neighborhood, on the south side of the downtown, is chock full of recreational opportunities. Just a few blocks to your left is the Monroe Golf Club, a public par 70, 18-hole course. With fast, undulated greens and numerous water features, this challenging course is just as fun the hundredth time as it is the first. The club pub serves classic sandwiches and cold brews, perfect after a long day in the sun.
Keep an eye out for 16th street, where you’ll make a right.
At the north end of the golf course is the Recreation Park, home to Monroe’s public swimming pool. The park also features basketball and tennis courts, as well as the Swiss Alps Playground, a massive jungle gym your little ones will love.
Turning right on 16th Avenue will take you through Market Square, home to the weekly farmers market, and toward downtown.
Take a right on 13th Street, then an immediate left on 17th Avenue. The Swiss-style beer hall on the corner is a Monroe mainstay offering, as the sign explains, food, spirits, dancing, and bowling. Established in 1868, Turner Hall is one of the oldest Swiss cultural institutions in America and serves as a meeting place for local descendants of Swiss immigrants.
17th Avenue takes you north to the center of town, where you’ll see Monroe’s most famous building. The Green County Courthouse was constructed in 1891 in the Romanesque style and features a 120-foot clock tower. The courthouse was constructed to celebrate retaining the county seat after a legal battle with the nearby town of Monticello.
The town square is home to Monroe’s best restaurants and shops. If you’re getting hungry, this would be a great spot to pause the tour and grab a bite!
If you feel like a real taste of local flavor, check out Baumgartner’s cheese shop and tavern, Wisconsin’s oldest continually operated cheese store. Even in a state famous for its cheese production, the Swiss community in Monroe and Green County is particularly well-known for producing delicious dairy products. Baumgartners pairs local and imported cheeses with delicious locally brewed beers for a truly authentic Wisconsin experience.
Monroe hosts “Cheese Days” in the third week of September in even-numbered years. This dairy-themed bash is a weeklong celebration of Green county, featuring charity runs, live music, dancing, and all the cheese you can eat!
Downtown Monroe is also a great spot to find antiques, with the Monroe Antique Mall, Now and Then, and Marv’s Farm all a stone’s throw from the courthouse steps. Other notable spots on the square include the North Side Pub and Grill, with delicious burgers and fries, Pancho and Lefty’s, the local Mexican eatery, and Chocolate Temptation, serving handmade confections, gourmet coffee, and ice cream.
17th Avenue will take you to the north edge of town and out to State Highway 69, towards Monticello. Along the way, you’ll pass the Green County Historical Society Museum, located at the corner of 17th and 9th. This museum, located in an old Universalist church, is a treasure trove of information, detailing the exploration and settlement of the area, as well as the history of the many immigrant groups that give Green County its special flavor.
Before you leave town, I should mention two other important Monroe attractions. Twining Park, just west of your current location, features numerous athletic fields. It’s also the trailhead for the Badger trail, a state recreation trail that follows along the highway to meet up with the Ice Age National Scenic trail in Monticello. The Monroe Arts Center is Green County’s Cultural hub, located on the west side of town. Their concert hall is the site of both orchestral and solo performances, as well as children’s programming, educational theater, and even stand-up comedy.
Keep heading north on Highway 69 and follow the GPS directions to Monticello.
Though it was once a contender to be the seat of Green County, Monticello has never been able to compete with Monroe in terms of size. This quaint village has a population of around 1,300. Montesian Lake, to your left, is stocked for fishing and ice fishing and provides the opportunity for skating in the winter. The lake is part of the Monticello Community Park, home to Monticello’s public swimming pool and baseball field. The Park also features the Montesian Gardens, featuring beautiful, well-maintained flowerbeds and shrubs.
Turning left on Main Street will take you through Monticello’s commercial center. M&M Cafe on your right is an old-school diner with friendly staff, fresh, made from scratch food, and bottomless coffee cups. The Pink Heifer Saloon, on the left, serves up southern-style barbecue and craft cocktails.
Gemplers, also on the left, is Monticello’s locally-owned supermarket, and the home of Alpine Boy Sausage, boasting an award-winning recipe for Kalberwurst. Take a right on Coates Avenue to head out the east side of town.
Our drive will now meander through Wisconsin farmland, roughly following the path of the Ice Age Trail and along Ross Crossing creek. This swath of agricultural land is home to a couple of unincorporated communities and landmarks. Exeter, just to the west of your route, is the site of an old river crossing on the Little Sugar. It’s also the site of the Badger trail tunnel, an old railway tunnel, and the Edelweiss Chalet Country Club. Their 18-hole, par 72 golf course is open for public play.
The community of Dayton, to the east of today's route, is home to the Hop Garden, where freshly farmed hops are turned into delicious brews. Their taproom is open Wednesday through Sunday and features punchcard deals where locals and returning hopheads can earn free beer. The Hop Garden is also the site of Molino Taqueria, where hungry customers can enjoy authentic Latin and Tex-Mex favorites.
The last stop on our list today is Belleville, located on the north edge of Green County.
Well, folks, we’ve reached the end of the line! Belleville is seated on land once owned by Daniel Webster, a prominent lawyer of the early days of America who set numerous judicial precedents and served as Secretary of State under three presidents. In 1845, Canadian settler John Frederick purchased the land and constructed a dam and sawmill, naming the new village after his hometown in Ontario.
Take a right on Main Street to get a good feel for this small town’s atmosphere. The Belleville Ale House is the local watering hole, serving up delicious craft beers from local brewers. For delicious coffee and baked goods, check out Lingonberry Llama.
Belleville really sets itself apart from other villages of Green County with its stellar parks. Coming up on the right you’ll see Library Park, the town’s central meeting place with a bandstand and plenty of spots for picnicking and relaxing. Take a left on River Street, followed by another left on Bross Circle to stop in at Belleville community park, with a baseball diamond and walking trails overlooking Lake Belle View. The lake is a popular spot for skating in the winter.
Sugar River Park, located a couple of blocks downstream, is the village’s main spot for recreation, featuring baseball, softball, and football fields. The athletic complex at Belleville High School, on the west side of town, is home to Belleville’s public swimming pool.
All right, folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed your day getting to know the ins and outs of Green County! If you’d like to learn more about making your home here in southern Wisconsin, reach out to our local expert Realtor, Rick Corey. You can reach him by emailing Rick@MoveMode.com or by calling 608-219-6066. Have a great day!