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9 Chocolates in Egypt

During one of my  “impromptu jaunts”  I found a little shop I had never seen or heard of before. Its located just across Illinois Highway 146 from Dixon Springs State Park, and its called the Chocolate Factory. First opened in 1977, it’s located halfway between Vienna and Golconda from Interstate 24, take exit 16, east about 12 miles and the shop is on your right.

The scenery is pretty nice through this area, because you are traveling through the Shawnee National Forest. I would caution you about the moving scenery. If you have driven anywhere in the Midwest, you are familiar with the surprises our “Deer” friends sometimes have for us. If not, keep your eyes open along the sides of the road. If you see one deer crossing the highway, there are often more behind her. This happens all through the year. They’re easier to see in the daylight, naturally, and fortunately, this time of day corresponds to the hours of the Chocolate Factory during most of the year. They are open from Monday through Saturday, throughout the year, from 9 AM to 5 PM.

The shop is a comfortable environment to browse, if you want to look over the items for sale on the tables and along the wall. If you need assistance, the staff is friendly and ready to help. If Ice Cream (hand dipped, not soft-serve!) is your quest, there is a counter with lots of different flavors for you to choose from. If you want your chocolate with sugar, they have lots of that. If you prefer white chocolate, they have that. If you are avoiding sugar (I sympathize) they have their different treats available in a sugar free form. These confections are displayed in clear containers along the counter, so you can see the kind of candy you want. If you are looking for a gift for someone, they have pre-selected boxes of candy.

If there’s a special event in your future, they do special orders for weddings, business meetings, birthdays , retirement parties, or any kind of an event your ingenious mind can concoct.

My personal experience there was very pleasant. I spoke to a charming and helpful lady who told me about the part of the shop where they hand paint the chocolates in different colors of chocolate. That was a new one on me, I never knew you could paint in chocolate. In fact, they will give tours to school kids of the facility, and demonstrate the technique of making fine chocolates. It sounds like a great field trip for around Halloween, Christmas or Easter.

I bought a half pound of a chocolate covered caramel and pecan treat that is often generically called after a small animal with a hard shell and a slow pace. I admit I asked for it by its nationally known trade name. At the Chocolate Factory, this candy is called a Terrapin. Its shaped like a terrapin, but its exterior is soft, and there was nothing slow about the time it took me to gobble it down. I have been parceling them out to myself since I got them. It’s excellent.

They have a website, but the lady told me that they don’t have a shopping cart on the webpage. You can always call a 1-877-949-3829. To look over their offerings, check out www.thechocolatefactory.net

So, if you are looking for a gift, would like an ice cream cone after exploring Dixon Springs or nearby Garden of the Gods, or just want to get some sweets for your sweetie, drop in and visit. They’ll make you feel welcome.

Enjoy Illinois –

Bill Byrnes

10 Corvettes to crowd into downstate IL

Since 1994, on the third weekend in September, thousands of Corvettes and their enthusiastic owners descend on the city of Effingham. Mid America Motorworks hosts Corvette Funfest every year, and it is one of the biggest annual Corvette get-togethers in the world.
Mike Yager founded Mid America Motorworks in 1974 as a supplier of parts and accessories for the Corvette brand, selling his wares out of the trunk of his car. Today, the company mails out millions of catalogs and hosts thousands of visitors on its websites. At the annual show, there are vendors displaying and even installing their wares for customers, burnout contests, contests for the loudest exhaust, fashion shows, concerts, celebrity autograph sessions….and of course, thousands upon thousands of Corvettes.
This year the company also hosts the band ‘The Guess Who’ at a Saturday night concert. The event runs September 17th-19th. There is a small parking fee for Corvettes entering the show, see the company’s website for details.

-Ed Baumgarten

The C.H. Moore Homestead

Right along Rt-51 on the north side of Clinton is a wonderfully preserved piece of Illinois history, with ties to President Lincoln. Completed in 1867 as the private residence of John Bishop, a local lumber merchant, the homestead was sold to C.H. Moore in 1880 after the death of the Bishop’s youngest daughter.

Mr. Moore

Mr. Moore was a lawyer and land purveyor and made the acquaintance of another young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln. The two became friends, assisting each other on some cases, and opposing on others….remaining friends throughout. Mr. Moore developed the estate in Clinton throughout the years, including an extensive library in an addition on the west side of the mansion.

The Library

This library was, at the time, one of the most extensive private libraries outside of Chicago (and is still quite impressive!). The manor house itself serves as the Dewitt County Museum and maintains a wonderful museum of late 19th and early 20th century life. The many rooms are full of furniture and decoration appropriate for the era. The entry way is graced by a wonderful winding staircase and very ornate carpet and wallpaper. The Moore’s original square Steinway grand piano and a full size harp are the center pieces of the music room.

The Music Room

Upstairs are the bedrooms, including the masters, and also the children’s room. The children’s room contains a wonderful, authentic childs four post bed, and is overseen by a pastel portrait of the Butler families only child who was lost at the age of two, Mary Elizabeth. Among the several rooms in on the ground level are the dining, parlor, music, kitchen and what is obviously the showpiece room of the house, the library. This two story room contains very unique rotary bookcases in two corners, with glass fronted barrister-like bookcases along the opposite wall. The upper gallery is also lined with bookcases and an iron railing lines the portal ceiling between the two stories. The library also contains many items one might find in a well appointed Victorian library, including an Edison cylinder phonograph and a wonderful, nautical themed kaleidoscope. Mr. Moore’s original hand made secretary desk anchors the room, with a pair of glasses sitting on the desktop, as if awaiting the masters return.
The basement of the manor, which reveals the houses natural brick walls, has been set up display case style and features a very complete collection of World War One weaponry and Indian artifacts. A central wall displays antique photos of the mansion through the years, as well as local landmarks. There’s also a room depicting life in an early log cabin and another with revolving collections, containing antique tin-toys and pedal cars on our visit.
Stepping outside, one is treated to various views of the manor house, which is of the Second Empire style of architecture with Italianate ques. The mansard roof is replete with curved top dormers and all of the corbels and brackets that make this style of architecture so beautiful are intact and in good order on this very well appointed house. The front area of the grounds are flanked by a wonderful cast ironwork fence and gardens. The carriage house stands just across the way from the manor house and contains several antique carriages, displayed in a warm rustic setting.
Many festivals and events are held on the grounds, with the Pork and Apple festival (September 25-26 this year) being the highlight. Visit the C.H. Moore Homesteads website for hours and more information. The homestead was placed on the National Register in 1978.
Located in view of Rt-51 between Decatur and Bloomington, this wonderful and well maintained site is a jewel in the city of Clinton, and a wonderful location to enjoy some history, and view the ornate wonders of Victorian life in early Central Illinois.

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-Ed Baumgarten

12 Treasure in Litchfield

The Ariston CafeOn old Route 66 in Litchfield Illinois is a treasure. Thousands have found it, from those around the block to those half a world away. The Ariston Cafe has stood at it’s present location since 1935.  It’s believed to be one of, if not THE, oldest cafe on historic Route 66. Pete Adam founded the restaurant. In 1966 his son Nick and family took over, and in 2004, Nicks son Paul joined the team. Three generations of the Adam’s have cherished and cared for this classic piece of American Heritage…and it shows.
The exterior of the building, with it’s multicolored, round topped brick facade has been a welcoming site for travelers for decades longing for a hot meal and a chance to climb out from behind the wheel and into a booth for some classic dining.
Stepping through the front door is a step back into time. The classic wooden booths with their attached coat hangers and polished finish will instantly transport you to simpler times, and you can almost see the fedoras that would most certainly have found a temporary perch there. A  counter replete with bar stools awaits those who wish a quick bite. Near the door is an original menu from 1938 that was presented to owner Nick by loyal local patron. Imagine a Porterhouse steak for 85 cents in today’s world!
The menu at the Ariston promises something for everyone from steaks and seafood to patty melts and reubens (visit their website for a great Baklava recipe).
Take the drive to Litchfield and stop off at the Ariston Cafe for some classic dining at a classic American cafe!

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-Ed Baumgarten

13 A Classic Theater In The Heart of IL

The Orpheum theater in Hillsboro stands as a monument to the the glory days of movie theaters, where the ‘silver screen’ brought the rest of the world to small towns. This classic 19th century building has all the art deco ornamentation that made these movie houses the jewel of any town on a Saturday night.


Originally opening in 1920 the theater boasted some 780 seats in the ‘modern and attractive’ building for patrons. Over the years the theater changed owners through ups and downs, and luckily, was kept in good condition. The current owners took over in 2003, moving to Hillsboro from Iowa where they ran several theaters. Since taking over the Orpheum in Hillsboro, the Eisentraut Family has opened several other theaters in surrounding towns. Their secret…..being the best movie deal in Illinois. Just $6.00 gets you a ticket, a tub of popcorn and a drink…..$6.00…..!! Not quite 1920’s prices, but darn close. With today’s ever escalating prices this family has taken a stand to provide good quality entrainment at a price everyone can afford. The building itself is a wonderful example of 20’s Art Deco and maintains it’s original facade.


The sign above the marque proudly displays the name of the theater and above that, the original stone work carving of Orpheus, the Greek entertainer who wooed the gods, and the theater’s name sake, beckons all to come and be entertained. The original viewing room has since been divided in height to allow for two theaters in the same building, over and under. From the upper theater the original tin ceiling and ornate cornices can be seen. What wonderful ornamentation these buildings had!

The ornate upper level theater

In these days of high prices and multiplexes it’s great to see small town values can survive, and thrive, in the theater business…..and at the Orpheum the show goes on….

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-Ed Baumgarten