© 2023 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New book outlines historic highlights — and tastes — of Midwest

The DeSoto House Hotel in Galena is one of the sites featured in Cynthia Clampitt's new book, "Destination Midwest."
The DeSoto House Hotel in Galena is one of the sites featured in Cynthia Clampitt's new book, "Destination Heartland."

Cynthia Clampitt believes that the Midwest often gets overlooked when it comes to what the region has to offer. Her new book, “Destination Heartland,” seeks to change that.

“The region sometimes called ‘flyover country’ offers a multitude of great places to land,” she said.

Clampitt covers a number of historic attractions from Illinois and 11 Midwestern states, citing examples from each state.

“It is far from being a comprehensive look at all the region offers,” she said, encouraging readers to do their own heartland research.

What Clampitt provides, however, is a listing of places she’s visited with information on why she finds the site interesting plus what the public can look for.

Conner Prairie, just outside Indianapolis, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Museum, is cited along with Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa while Cahokia Mounds, near St. Louis, offers up a museum Clampitt calls amazing.

“I love living history venues. The people who are working there are so into history. They give you a huge amount of information,” she said.

Among other living history venues listed by Clampitt include Sauder Village Living History Museum and Farm in Archbold, Ohio, Lincoln’s New Salem in Illinois (Petersburg) and Shoal Creek History Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

Old World Wisconsin in Eagle, Wis. Is a collection of over 60 historic structures and gardens nestled amid forests and ponds, she said.

Clampitt, who identifies herself as a food historian as well as a travel writer, makes a point of identifying places across the Midwest that have been dispensing good food for many years.

“The focus is on restaurants and taverns that long ago popped up along trails and in early towns—and that are still in business,” she said.

Clampitt noted that the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio, the oldest hotel in the state, having opened in 1802, remains in business with a restaurant that still serves roast beef and roast turkey.

The inn includes rooms decorated to reflect the time of some of the illustrious guests that stayed at the Golden Lamb, people like Charles Dickens and Ulysses S. Grant.

Speaking of Grant, Clampitt includes the DeSoto Hotel in Galena, Ill., that once served as the former president’s campaign headquarters, as one of her favorites, making note of the blue cheese soup, a house specialty.

Whether it’s chislic (cubes of meat threaded on a skewer served with garlic salt and saltine crackers) in South Dakota, runza (soft bread filled with beef, onion and cabbage) in Nebraska or pickled ham at the Amana Colonies, Clampitt said Midwestern food can be just as captivating as a pioneer village.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.