Walt Williamson started building his rustic, roadside wonder in 1936 using utility poles and old bridge beams.

He first erected a gas station, some tourist cabins and then a restaurant lodge that grew into its postcard peak with homey country quaintness heaped into a Trophy Room, Gay Nineties Room, Martha Washington Room, and the bare-beamed Lounge. A local landmark, the Wagon Wheel attracted celebrities winging through the greater Rockford-Beloit metro area, including Bob Hope and Ronald Reagan. Williamson lived into the 1970s, the Wagon Wheel fading with his demise until finally it closed in 1989.