Many people whiz down Green Bay Road between Kenosha and Racine every day, and although they may see the Hawthorn Hollow sign across from Petrifying Springs Park, they may not know about the treasure inside its gates. Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary & Arboretum is a 40-acre retreat from modern life, a haven of trees and birds, plants and flowers. A few months back, we visited with Hawthorn Hollow Education Director Dan Lyons to learn more about the property’s quaint history and the sanctuary’s generous offerings.
Hawthorn Hollow began in 1935 when the site was purchased by Ruth Teuscher, a middle-aged schoolteacher from Racine, as a personal nature retreat for herself and her sister Margaret, also a Racine schoolteacher. Over the years, the Teuschers built small roads and bridges, a stable, a residence, and some smaller structures, and took care of the land, preserving its wild state in some areas, and designing the landscape in others — including an arboretum of 358 trees and shrubs planted in May 1969 under the supervision of Clarence Godshalk, who also construced the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois.
In order to perpetuate the sisters’ interests in nature, local history, and education, Hawthorn Hollow was signed over to the Hyslop Foundation in 1966, but Margaret and Ruth continued to live at the residence until just about the end of their lives, in 1981 and 1988 respectively.
Open to the public about 10 months of the year, Hawthorn Hollow now serves as a unique outdoor classroom and an enclave of an earlier era. Three historic buildings from the Town of Somers — its 1847 Pike River School, 1859 Somers Town Hall, and 1906 Pike River School — were moved to Hawthorn Hollow in 1967 and situated near a patch of virgin prairie along an authentic Indian Trail. Children come to spend a day learning in the old schoolrooms, or during field trips in the woods and prairies. Adults and youngsters alike take classes in archeology, go on bird walks, and attend workshops on gardening and heritage crafts like candlemaking, barn quilting, canning, and basket weaving.
Special events at Hawthorn Hollow include three evenings of musical entertainment in July and August. Known as the Pike River Benefit Concert Series, the shows are held at Hawthorn Hollow’s natural amphitheater on the Pike River, which once served as the Teuscher sisters’ camping spot. The annual Walk in the Woods Art Fair is now in its 23rd year and draws as many as 5,000 people on the Saturday before Labor Day. A Birds and Breakfast fundraiser in early May offers pancakes, migrating birds, and a native plant sale all on the same morning.