In 1935, University of Wisconsin Professor Aldo Leopold turned a dilapidated chicken coop on a worn-out, abandoned farm along the Wisconsin River into a weekend retreat and headquarters for his most famous ecological experiment. Here the conservationist, ecologist, wilderness advocate, and author hoped to demonstrate that one could restore degraded land to ecological health. He and his family repaired the front-gabled, board-and-batten shack, covered the roof with wooden shingles, added a one-room wing with a shed roof and a massive sandstone fireplace with a mantel of red cedar harvested on site, and turned the outbuilding into a rustic cabin, which the Leopolds simply called “The Shack.” Eventually, they installed a wooden floor and whitewashed the interior walls. Cooking took place in the fireplace hearth or over a campfire, and the family pumped water from a well just beyond the front door. The Leopolds then planted pines, tamaracks, sugar maples, and other tree species and restored a prairie. This landscape became the primary setting for his influential collection of essays, A Sand County Almanac (1949).
While Leopold sought to return the landscape to its natural state, a millennium earlier, Wisconsin’s Woodland Culture created an extraordinary mound of a human form (Man Mound Road, Man Mound Park, approximately eight miles southwest of Leopold’s shack) in the Town of Greenfield. Human forms are rare among the Woodland mounds of Wisconsin. The original figure was 214 feet long and wore a buffalo-horn headdress, but local road-builders bisected it before it was preserved by the Sauk County Historical Society in 1907.