The John Deere Historic Site celebrated its season opener in May, marking 50 years as a historic and educational attraction. Located in Grand Detour, Ill., 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 prairie village. The John Deere Historic Site is funded and managed by the John Deere Foundation and opened to the public in 1964.
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 as well as film that can be watched/heard in several languages.
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. To maintain the home’s integrity, it recently underwent renovations to both the exterior and interior.
Another highlight of the John Deere Historic Site includes 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 ironworker. Works created by the resident blacksmith are sold in the site’s gift shop along with a variety of John Deere licensed products.
The John Deere Historic Site will host several special events this year including: The June Jam music festival on June 22; the Biennial Hammer In Aug. 2-3; the Art of Green Aug. 9-10 and the 66th Annual Grand Detour Arts Festival on Sept. 14. The site can be rented to groups for special events throughout the season. Gates open daily Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for ages 12 and older. For more information, call 815.652.4551 or visit www.JohnDeereAttractions.com.