Northwest Territory Historic Center

Location: Dixon, Illinois

Webpage: Museum

General Description: Five Blocks north from President Ronald Regan’s Boyhood Home is the Dixon city school he attended as a young boy.  As part of the preservation of this historic landmark the school is today a museum dedicated to the history of the Northwest Territory and the part Dixon, Illinois played in this history.  The various classrooms in the school on all three floors are home to a number of interesting exhibits ranging from Ronald Regan memorabilia to the history of the region and the town of Dixon.


1) As you walk in the front door of the school you get a good sense of the atmosphere of city schools in the early 1900s.  Stairs immediately descend to the basement and ascend to the first floor like so many schools of the era.  You are immediately welcomed by the staff who provide an overview of the museum, which is free to the public.


2) Each classroom on the first floor holds a different exhibit.  There is a Prairie Room that is devoted to the efforts in the region to restore some of the lost prairie land and reintroduction of buffalo herds.  There is an excellent exhibit that gives the history of the Black Hawk War of the mid-1800s.  This was the final chapter for the native Indians in the region as they attempted, one last time, to regain their lands from encroaching settlers and was the only military experience for Abraham Lincoln although he never saw action in the war.  There is a display of posters and other memorabilia of President Ronald Regan who spent his early childhood in Dixon.  There is a very good exhibit about the Lincoln Highway, which was the first coast-to-coast highway in the US, and went through Dixon.


3) The second floor has another set of exhibits in the classrooms.  One classroom has been left as a restored “Dutch” Regan Classroom with period desks and chalkboard.  Another classroom holds a few exhibits devoted to the Walgreens history since they had their summer home in the area.  Other classrooms are devoted to the WWII airfield at Dixon, the Veterans History Project, the Chautauqua History (one of a series of family summer camps in the early 1900s), and the history of Dixon dating from the 1840s.

4) The third floor contains the museum library and the restored gymnasium of the school.