NEWS FROM www.RedChairTravels.com and Ringling House Bed & Breakfast
The Red Chair Makes Coast-to-Coast Journey
Move over Flat Stanley, the Red Chair is the newest travel icon
WI–Where travelers once held photos of Flat Stanley in unusual places, photographers now shoot photos of a humble red chair. Long considered simply a place to rest after a long day, the lowly wooden chair has been elevated to celebrity status, and is being welcomed at inns and B&Bs throughout America.
It’s all part of a multi-year B&B awareness program that focuses on a traveling red porch chair to highlight the comfort, hospitality and friendliness of bed and breakfasts. Since its start in New England in 2012, B&Bs and inns have taken inspiring photos of the Red Chair from beaches to bandstands.
The week of June 19th, 2017 thanks to the partnership with WBBA (Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association – WisconsinBandB.com) the chair has made its way to Baraboo, WI and the Ringling House B&B. Innkeepers Julie Hearley & Stuart Koehler shot images of the Red Chair at the Al Ringling Theater, Circus World Museum, Al Ringling Mansion & Museum, International Circus Hall of Fame, Downtown Baraboo, Baraboo’s Riverwalk as well as the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast. It all started in winter 2012 with a single image. Woods Hole Inn innkeeper Beth Colt posted a picture on Facebook of her simple red chair perched on the ice behind her house and watched her page light up with “likes.” The picture was shared on the Facebook page of a nature photographer from California, who was inspired by the image to visit the Woods Hole Inn and took an amazing second photo of the chair on a local beach.
Stories from the Red Chair’s travels have been chronicled on blogs at each stop throughout its journey, a compilation of these blogs, visit http://www.redchairtravels.com/blog.html. Below you will find an entry from Red’s stay at the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast:
Thoughts from Red
Hello everyone, Red here!
I was lucky enough to join innkeepers Julie Hearley & Stuart Koehler at the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast. I arrived late Tuesday evening 7/20/17 via Dave and Trudy Holdner from the Inn on Wawanissee Point, another beautiful bed & breakfast overlooking Devils Lake State Park in Baraboo, WI. On the drive there I was driven down the winding & picturesque roads of the Baraboo Bluffs, along the Baraboo river valley and into the city of Baraboo or “Gem City”. Driving through the city, it’s hard to miss the yellow and white 1901 colonial revival, perched on the corner of 8th & Ash St. Townies refer to this city icon as “big yellow”. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a warm Wisconsin welcome by Julie & Stuart, and given a tour of the Ringling House.
During the tour I learned that Baraboo, is not only home to the picturesque Baraboo bluffs, and fast moving Baraboo river, it was once home to the world renowned Ringling Brothers Circus. From 1884 through 1918, Baraboo was the winter quarters for the circus. Every winter the Ringling Brothers packed up their circus “city” and moved back to Baraboo for repairs, act upgrades, and a bit of rest. Of the five brothers who started the circus, three of them built mansions in Baraboo. Only two mansions still exist in Baraboo.
The Charles Ringling House, Ringling House Bed & Breakfast, or “Big Yellow”, was built by Charles Ringling, one of the founding members of the Ringling Brothers Circus. He sold the house to his brother Henry Ringling around 1917. The house remained in Henry Ringlings family until Julie & Stu purchased in 2015, and converted it into a Bed & Breakfast. The one acre estate in the middle of Baraboo has four buildings on the property, including the main house, carriage house, barn, and mother-in-law cottage. Most of the woodwork, stained glass, hardwood floors, and decorative plaster ceilings are original to the house.
After a good nights sleep, I awoke to the aroma of coffee in the air. I descended the grand stairway and was treated to breakfast in the dining room, which houses the original quarter sawn oak table & chairs from the Henry Ringling family. After a delicious breakfast, I took my coffee out on the front porch next to the circus wheel table, then took a stroll along the gardens surrounding the house.
Circus World Museum
The winter quarters for the Ringling Brothers Circus was housed in many buildings along water street in Baraboo. This area is now owned by the Wisconsin State Historical Society, and is where Circus World Museum resides. It is also the spot where I would be making my circus debut!
Off to Circus World Museum for my debut! I sat and watched most of the big top show until my act. They have everything that a normal circus would have. Trained horses and dogs, a juggler, a trapeze act, unicycler, clowns, two elephants, live music and a ringmaster! Then came my debut with the chair balancing act, the whole big top cast was there to cheer me on!
After this exciting show, I took a walk along the Baraboo River walk, just alongside Circus world, to decompress. The riverwalk, is nice for walking or biking, and is actually part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. You can hear the Baraboo river rapids as you walk, which makes it relaxing, and a great spot for kayaking, as its fast flow once powered seven different mills.
Along the way I ran into a metal bird sculpture done by Dr. Evermore. There is an art park along highway 12 with many more large sculptures by Evermore, but along the riverwalk, it just seems prehistoric, perhaps fitting along the ice age trail.
Murals in Gem City
As I walked along, I went back to the city center and noticed several signs, the smaller reading “Painted by the people of Baraboo”. These murals depict items that highlight Baraboo: Circus World, Cranes (International Crane Foundation), and Trains (Baraboo was once the main office of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad), and Aldo Leopold Shack and foundation (Author of the Sand County Almanac).
Another mural proudly depicted important townspeople of Baraboo, titled “People are the fabric of our community”. This wall displays prominently those in the community, both living and past, in which locals are proud of.
Baraboo town square
Not far from the murals was the city square, complete with a picturesque historic district, thriving local shops & restaurants, courthouse clock tower. Of course, a city in which a circus began would not be complete without circus wheel bike racks! A few more circus related stops I had to make before heading off to Valley Springs Farm in Reedsburg.
International Clown Hall of Fame
While downtown, I popped in at the International Clown Hall of Fame for a few photo ops. Here I met Greg DeSanto, former Clown College teacher, who now runs this museum. I learned alot about clowns, clown cars, clown makeup, and clown props that day.
Al Ringling Mansion and Museum
I also had to stop in at the other Ringling mansion in town, the Al Ringling Mansion and Museum. You can get tours of this partially restored museum, which will be undergoing restoration in years to come.
Al Ringling Theater
And finally, my last stop, the Al Ringling theater, donated by Al Ringling to the city of Baraboo in 1915. The theater has recently been restored to its full beauty in the french baroque style. I’m not sure if sitting in the audience, watching the talent on the stage, or sitting on stage looking out at the audience is a better position to be in, but I can tell you they are both magnificent!
Coincidentally, it houses Henry Ringling II’s original usher uniform from opening day at the theater back in 1915. Henry inherited the “Big Yellow” Ringling House after his mothers passing, and became the manager of the Al Ringling theater as an adult. An interesting connection to the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast.
During my stay here, I wondered about the nick name given to Baraboo: “Gem City”. Where did it come from? The Pink Granite hills surround Baraboo in the shape of a diamond, which is where the name originated. But in my travels to this area, I found that this city is a “gem” in many other ways. Baraboo is a community that is proud of it’s heritage and it’s talent. For a small town, it abounds with art displays, music, theater, museums, outdoor recreation, community cooperation, and natural beauty. “Gem City” may have more meaning when it pertains to what goes on in this little city, than with what surrounds it!
-Red, June 2017