Tower of Baa-Goat – Windsor, Illinois - Atlas Obscura

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Tower of Baa-Goat

Windsor, Illinois

A 30-foot-tall goat tower in southern Illinois is home to a flock of Swiss ungulates. 

Sponsored by The Illinois Office of Tourism
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Saanen goats are a Swiss breed known for their calm temperament, pointy ears, and tendency to climb the tallest structure in their immediate surroundings—an evolutionary tick that helped them evade predators in the mountainous environments they call home. While there are no such predators or mountains in central Illinois, one caring couple in the small town of Windsor built a literal tower to put their flock at ease.

The Tower of Baa-Goat is located on a sprawling property belonging to husband-and-wife Dave and Marcia Johnson. The 30-foot tall structure, made of 5,000 handmade bricks, was built with 276 steps wrapping around the frame, which allows the Johnson’s goats to reach their respective “apartments,” hollow rooms within the tower where the goats sleep at night. It’s a charming installation on a gorgeous piece of restored land, but far from the only unexpected attraction on the property. Perhaps more surprising than a tower for goats is the fact that the structure preceded the ungulates. 

An oenophile and voracious reader (former school principal, in fact), Dave was flipping through an issue of Decanter magazine in the mid-1990s when he was struck by an image of a winery in South Africa. The winery featured a tower with spiral steps upon which a flock of goats ascended and descended as they pleased. It was the second tower of its kind ever built, the first being erected in the 19th century on a winery in Portugal. Dave decided he would build the third. 

He called the bricklayer who built his house out of retirement to actualize the structure, who ordered a haul of handmade bricks from North Carolina. After three months of work, the structure was complete, with a copper roof on top. The Johnsons then purchased 11 Saanens to call the tower home. While the flock has grown and shrunk in size over time, they’ve always slept in the tower and enjoyed climbing and jumping from its wooden steps, which visitors can see for themselves today after calling or emailing the Johnsons through their website.

The tower isn’t the only feature on the Johnson’s property worth visiting. Thanks to Dave and Marcia’s tireless restoration efforts—which included planting 250 trees, building six ponds, and re-wilding nearly 100 acres to attract birds, bees, and other pollinators—the homestead was declared a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Visitors can spot over 100 different species of birds alone. They’ve also prominently displayed other curiosities they’ve come to possess over the years, including a one-ton glacial erratic, stunningly life-like metal sculptures of storks, and singing stones that make wind-chime-like noises when struck. 

Know Before You Go

Visitors must contact the Johnsons before visiting. Any unannounced visitors will be turned away.

Sponsored by the Illinois Office of Tourism. Learn more and plan your getaway here.

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