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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Aldo Leopold Shack
Sauk County
Dates of Construction: 1935-1948
Builder: Aldo Leopold

Already one of the 20th century's most highly regarded wildlife ecologists, Aldo Leopold bought a cutover, damaged, and abandoned farm in central Wisconsin in 1935. Not only would Leopold and his family restore the farm to lush health, but also he would spend many hours walking the land, cataloguing plants, conducting ecological research, and, above all, observing. Leopold's ability to sit in solitude and to soak up the wisdom of his farm influenced the development of his land ethic philosophy, which emphasized the interdependence of the ecosystem, and inspired his book A Sand County Almanac, published in 1949. This classic, featuring philosophical essays and natural sketches about observations at and near Leopold's farm, established Leopold as America's preeminent environmental philosopher. The Sand County Almanac garnered more nominations to the "Environmental Books Hall of Fame" than any other book, beating out classics Silent Spring and Walden.

Leopold, his wife Estella, and their five children bought the dilapidated farm to enjoy rural respite from Leopold's high-powered lifestyle as the creator of ecological foundations for resource and wildlife management, author of numerous articles and books, and officer of many organizations. Living in Madison, the family would visit the farm year-round during weekends and vacations. Almost immediately, they built themselves a tiny "shack" from an old chicken coop. The simplicity of "the shack" symbolized Leopold's landmark perception of the interconnected relationship between man and nature, and the family began to lovingly refer to both the farm and the home as "the shack." Leopold and his family made all the cupboards, shelves, tables, and benches inside the shack. Also, the family planted numerous pines, shrubs, wildflowers, and prairie grasses on their farm. Leopold kept a record of these plantings and other observations in the 2000 page "Shack Journals." Leopold died in 1948.

In 1967, the Leopold family deeded the farm to the Aldo Leopold Sand County Trust, an establishment that maintains the property and runs a laboratory for the study of wildlife and ecology. In 1968, the farm became part of the Leopold Memorial Reserve. The property is open as part of a tour.


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