Sometimes we have to enjoy the treasures close to home when we can’t get away. One of my favorite places to visit is Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois. The estate was owned by Robert McCormick who is known for establishing the Tribune company which contains the Chicago Tribune and WGN. The estate is named after a French village that McCormick was in during his time in the First Division during World War I. Just so you know, it is pronounced can-teeny, not can-tig-nee. It took me awhile to learn that.
The grounds contain one of the best gardens I’ve ever been to. The landscaping changes with the seasons, keeping the designs fresh. Besides the bee-filled fields of color, there are also tanks for viewing,or climbing (if you get the urge), and two museums.
The First Division Museum takes you through America’s history with war. They offer a great program for teachers that includes history trunks with uniforms and other artifacts. I’ve used both the civil war trunks and revolutionary war trunk in my classroom. The uniforms are accurate reproductions, and the other items bring the human perspective of war to life. Imagine wearing brogans where there was no right or left, or check out the deck of cards soldiers would use to pass the time. Just don’t eat the hardtack.
The McCormick Museum is situated in the house. I love the Chinese mural that covers the walls in the dining room and the gold leaf ceiling in the theatre downstairs. There is even a secret bar in the library. Unfortunately, pictures are a no-no inside the house.
Perhaps Northern Illinois is not on your bucket list of travel destinations, but if you do happen to make it to this corner of the Midwest, stop by the Cantigny Park for a special treat.