The back roads are the best way to travel to Bishop Hill, a National Historic Landmark dating back to 1846 when a group of Swedish immigrants settled there. Celebrate Bishop Hill’s Swedish heritage by experiencing its old world charm. Today, Bishop Hill is a timeless country village where descendants of the original colonists live and work to maintain a modern-day utopia through art, craftsmanship, and dedication to Swedish heritage traditions.
Explore the history of this 1840’s “utopia on the plains” by walking throughout the village (historical walking tour book for purchase) and by visiting five museums to learn about historical preservation. Shop for local arts and crafts, lunch on Swedish meatballs at one of three restaurants, and take home genuine Swedish imports from the Colony Store. Two Swedish Trail options: Head south-east of Bishop Hill fifteen minutes and you’ll find Galva. A town named for a Swedish seaport where today you’ll find 80 percent of residents claim Scandinavian ancestry. As you drive through town you will note streets lined with architecturally enhanced homes. Stop in at Hathaway’s Gift Barn for eclectic home décor and Christmas decorations. Hidden downtown is a 1930’s Midwest treasure, Jacobsen’s Bakery. Stop in the small storefront to purchase authentic Swedish rye bread, rusks, and cookies. Prices are posted; leave your payment in a tin lock-box. Not far away, the Galva Goats are located in two locations; stop to take a memorable photo.
Head northwest of Bishop Hill twenty minutes: Another village with a Swedish-American chapter is the village of Andover. The Swedish connection began in 1849 when Pastor Lars Paul Esborn arrived with a small group of Swedish immigrants and founded the first Swedish Lutheran congregation in the United States. Jenny Lind Chapel is its cornerstone, built in 1850. Jenny Lind was a famous Swedish soprano and became America’s first international “rock star” when she toured with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The chapel has become a destination spot to learn the story of Andover’s Swedish immigrants and it continues to play an important role in the community.