Tomorrow River Homestead was created in 2017 as a place for artists and travelers to experience a rural America often left inaccessible by cultural divide. Set in a very small village in Central Wisconsin, this property offers new perspectives on visiting the country. TRH hopes to enrich hospitality using feminist framework to develop a welcoming experience for folks of all identities.
In 2017 Rue and Zay left the Pacific Northwest and headed East to find respite from high cost, busy living. While visiting friends in Wisconsin, they impulsively purchased the “Old Nelsonville Rest Home”. Rue knew immediately that this was going to be their home, their studio, and a place to welcome friends from all over the country. Zay was slightly more skeptical and rightly concerned about the amount of repair the facility needed.
Since purchase they have been working diligently on putting new life into this historical building.
Tomorrow River Homestead is a 4.5 acre corner lot in the center of Nelsonville, population 155. Our property is defined by a spring fed, class A trout stream where folks from afar come to fish, kayak and tube. There is a small lake, 40 acre hiking trail and locally famous sledding hill within 5 minutes from our property. Since the village is a dry one, the only drink in town is world renowned coffee from Ruby Roasters. If guests plan it right, they can experience live music or a craft show at the Rising Star Mill, a beautifully preserved historical landmark. However, just 15 minutes drive in both directions, guests can find locally crafted beer, farm to table cuisine and unlimited experiences.
This is a rough sketch of the layout of the homestead. Folks visiting enter the front door next to Room #1. The long wide hallway leads to each room, the studios, restrooms, kitchen and living room.
History of the establishment:
In 1953 Greta Stratton, a nurse from Madison, was driving through Nelsonville and stopped for lunch at a small diner. Much like Rue, she was at a place in her career where the next step was an entrepreneurial one. She headed back to her husband in Madison to let him know she would be starting her own nursing home in Central Wisconsin. After 25 years of serving the elderly, the Nelsonville Rest Home closed.
During the 80’s The Wolf Pack biker gang took over the estate. The house took a dark turn. For the next couple years the house was known for being a place to get high and get laid. Men in leather vest with fur tails hanging from their belts would stand out in the parking lot tossing bones in the yard. Hippies tell stories of stealing racist paraphernalia from the yard and smashing it out car doors. When the feds raided the complex, the owner fled down the fire escape supposedly making it free to Florida. Words of advice, you don’t move to a small village to lay low.
After the gang left, the house became known as a place where folks could live for cheap. Many were men coming out of relationships or passing through for various jobs in the area. The house started to really fall apart and the slumlord owner sold the place to a fellow resident, posted to be torn down in 2020.
Rue and Zay were getting pushed out of Portland, Oregon by high prices and shifting economics. Debating between Austin, Mexico or a bus to travel and live, they settled on Central Wisconsin. The couple leapt with courage into a new community, business adventure and partnership. For the first year these two have torn down walls, refinished floors and restructured this historical building into a communal center for travelers and artists.
Native Land Acknowledgments:
Tomorrow (Waupaca) River Homestead acknowledges the ancestral and traditional territories of the Anishinabewaki - ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, Menominee, and Očeti Šakówiŋ nations. These and the surrounding nations of the Ho-Chunk, Ojibwe, Potawatomie, Dakota, Sauk & Meskwaki remain the original, current, and future protectors of the land on which we stand today.
We recognize the colonial settlers that took this land. We honor the histories of this land before colonization. When first colonial/immigrant settlers built homesteads on this land in the 1850’s, indigenous people were still being forced from Wisconsin and suffering the loss of nearly half their people. While colonizers built new homes and lives west of the Mississippi River, native nations were still being forced into “trail of tear” removal across the lands. As tribes were forced from their native lands many tribes relocated to Wisconsin.
As we create in this space we hope to honor the skills and knowledges exchanged for thousands of years before our arrival. While we bring awareness of the original caretakers and travelers of these lands forward, we must continue our work beyond acknowledgement to end the erasure of indigenous identity and presence. We must hold ourselves responsible for the respect of ancestral names, languages, and laws, direct support of indigenous workers, and further decolonial disruptive action.
Zay and Rue moved “back to the land” to unify with their own indigenous ancestral heritage that was washed from their family culture through genocide, quantum blood law and forced assimilation into white society. Zay is registered Muscogee (Creek) Nation, a tribe forcibly removed from their Southeastern ancestral homes to Oklmulgee, Oklahoma Indian Territory. Rue is registered to the Cherokee Nation, a tribe also forcibly removed from their Southeastern ancestral homes to Tahlequah, Oklahoma Indian Territory. Rue also recognizes her paternal grandmother’s registered lineage of Baxoje (Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska), a semi-nomadic tribe originating from the Ho-Chunk tribes of Wisconsin, and unregistered lineage of the Omaha-Ponca Midwestern Native American Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa.
Rue and Zay believe all lands are interconnected and that ownership is a perpetuation of colonizer oppression. Land is a gift. We offer refuge and opportunities to all BIPOC communities to reconnect with the earth and the skies on land that was recognizably acquired from our own conflicted white privileges.
Tomorrow River Homestead Director
Tomorrow River Homestead is directed by artist Rubina Marie Martini.
Find more about their practice here: