Online Staff Report
GRAND DETOUR, Ill. — The John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour, Ill., will open the gates to the public for its 48th season Wednesday, May 2.
The site is the original Illinois homestead of John Deere and is the location where he built his first “self-scouring” steel plow.
The home Deere built still stands, and the Historic Site was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, and a Historic Landmark of Agricultural Engineering by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.
Tour guides provide an entertaining and educational perspective of life on the prairie in the atmosphere of a friendly 19th-century village. The John Deere Historic Site is funded and managed by the John Deere Foundation and opened to the public in1964. During the off-season, sidewalks were added throughout the site, making the grounds more accessible to guests.
In 1962, an archaeological team from the University of Illinois unearthed the exact location of the blacksmith shop where John Deere worked in the early 1800s. The location is preserved in an exhibit hall and features artifacts found on the site. A backdrop includes a pictorial interpretation that charts Deere’s progress. Renovations were recently made to this building providing a better viewing experience for guests. Updates include new display cases, additional seating and a glass wall for better viewing.
John Deere’s home is another of the site’s main attractions. He built this home in 1836, and later added sections to accommodate a growing family. The rooms are furnished in period décor, and guided tours are available.
The heart of the John Deere Historic Site is a recreation of Deere’s original blacksmith shop. Entering is like a time warp to early pioneer days as guests see the shop as it would have looked more than a century ago. Generally, five to seven times a day, a resident blacksmith demonstrates what it takes to be a skilled iron worker. Items created by the blacksmith are sold in the site’s Gift Shop, along with a variety educational books and toys, John Deere Historic Site apparel and a limited number of John Deere licensed products.
A heritage garden at the site showcases perennials typically found in the region from 1804 to the present. Historical timelines are displayed throughout the garden, created to educate guests and horticultural enthusiasts on innovative and historical data of John Deere’s life from his birth to the present. Each timeline is paired with perennials that would have existed during that time period. The Heritage Garden is the result of significant research and design with mastery level gardeners from the Midwest.
The John Deere Historic Site will host two special events this year, including a Hammer-In Aug. 4-5, where blacksmiths from around the Midwest will gather to celebrate their trade. This event will also commemorate the 175th anniversary of Deere & Company. The site will also host the 62rd Annual Grand Detour Arts Festival Sept. 9.
Gates are open daily, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday. Admission is $5 for ages 12 and older. For more information, call (815) 652-4551, or visit www.johndeereattracations.com.
Grand Detour is approximately an hour southwest of Rockford on Illinois Route 2.
Posted April 13, 2012