Lots of travel is coming up and we wanted a quiet day, a memory filled day for my husband’s birthday celebration. He loves backwoods roads and it was a treat to ride on the Brussels Ferry http://www.greatriverroad.com/secondarypages/ferries.htm on our way to dine at the historic Wittmond hotel.
The Ferry ride is a short one, but the hilly drive is a lovely one filled with trees and twists and turns of River bottom land. The ferry is one of the quicker ways to get to this Calhoun county Location. The ferry filled with vehicles three abreast and a couple riding a motorcycle was to our right and I must say they had the best view. Bikes were everywhere in southern Illinois, it was just that kind of day.
We took the short ferry ride then arrived at the Wittmond Hotel, that serves up a meal family style. The hotel was built by German immigrants Conrad Wittmond and his wife Mary. Our waitress said, “Today the sixth generation of Wittmonds run the restaurant.”
The first portion of what would become the Wittmond Hotel http://www.wittmondhotel.com was built in 1847 and operated as a trading post. The website history states, “The general store sold dry goods, furnishings, livery items, clothing and all other goods that a pioneer family might need. With the rapid growth of the riverboat trade after the Civil War, the family saw a need to provide accommodations to river travelers. In 1863 the Wittmonds constructed the two story brick house that formerly housed the Brussels post office, on the west side of the store. In 1885, they renovated the structure, adding 15 rooms for overnight guests.”
The hotel portion of the Wittmond is no more due to the cost of sprinkler systems, but the family style dinner is still traditional and there is a bar and a gift shop for visitors to enjoy as well. Keith loved it and said it was a do again.
The little town of Brussels is quite small, but it boasts a lovely Catholic Church with a statue of Jesus on the cross and the Virgin holding Baby Jesus. Our friend Jane Elliott told me, “The church actually burned a couple of years ago and they rebuilt it.”
We also stopped down the road at the former general store that now serves as the Calhoun County Illinois Visitors Center home http://www.enjoycalhouncounty.com/business/detail/770/brussels-visitors-center in one section and a consignment shop open on occasional weekends on the other side. A wonderful guide provided history of the building saying this was once a general store downstairs with a saloon and dance hall above in one big open room with the residence in the other portion. She pointed out the two stairs in the saloon where during Prohibition while police came in, customers could go out!
The building was built in German style with two doors in front and two in back. Our guide said there was even a tunnel below the building that since has been blocked.
Across the road from the visitors center was a small jail and there were a few pubs that visitors could enjoy as well. We had a great time enjoying the southern Illinois hospitality and drove north winding our way back home. This birthday was a good one, these days we are going for experiences rather than things!
Note that this is a May – October type of thing, the ferry only runs until November 1st.