Villa Louis mansion

Villa Louis National Historic Landmark

Villa Louis is a historic mansion on historic grounds along the Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien. The mansion was built by H. Louis Dousman in 1871, replacing an earlier one built by his father, fur trader and investor Hercules Dousman, in 1843. Located on St. Feriole Island, the mansion was also known as the “House on the Mound,” owing to its construction atop a former Native American mound. The mound has come in handy, as the flooding on the island can be legendary.

Villa Louis Historic Marker

The Villa Louis mansion is a Victorian Italianate style home, constructed of Cream City brick. It boasted modern indoor plumbing and central heating, quite a luxury for the early 1870s (Wi-fi wouldn’t come along for many years.) It was remodeled and restored in 1885 and again in the 1930s when family members used the mansion as a boarding house school.

Reconstructed Fort Crawford on the Villa Louis grounds

A reconstruction of Fort Crawford in its original location.

Prior to construction of the mansion, the Villa Louis grounds were the scene for the only battle in Wisconsin during the War of 1812, called the Siege of Prairie du Chien. The first Fort Crawford (a second was built on higher ground later) occupied part of the site from 1816-1843, replacing earlier forts named Shelby and McKay – which we learned during a War of 1812 reenactment was pronounced “Mc-Kai”, rhyming with “McHigh.”

Villa Louis was acquired by the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1952 and it became Wisconsin’s first State Historic Site. By 1960, it had become a National Historic Landmark along with two other structures on the grounds, the Astor Fur Warehouse and the Brisbois House.

Inside Villa Louis

A room inside Villa Louis. (Photo credit: Wisconsin Historical Society.)

You can get all the information and begin a tour at the Visitor Center, which is open daily from 9:30am-4:30pm. You’ll notice it’s on stilts; that’s because the area does still flood sometimes! There are restroom facilities and a cool Museum Store inside the Visitor Center, plus the opportunity to get informational materials on everything in the area. Tours of Villa Louis depart at the top of each hour, generally from 10am to 4pm; you can get specifics by season here.

Villa Louis side

Villa Louis Admission:

Adults (18-64) $12.50
Children (5-17) (children 4 and under are free) $6
Students/Seniors (65 & older) $10.50
Group Tour – Child (5-17) $5
Group Tour – Adult $10.50
Wisconsin Historical Society Members are admitted FREE

You can get to Villa Louis via Blackhawk Avenue west from downtown, which was the original U.S. 18 route before the road was relocated to the location of the current bridge over the Mississippi. Today’s U.S. 18 and Highways 27, 35, and 60 bring you within blocks.

Villa Louis Address:

521 Villa Louis Road
Prairie du Chien, WI 53821
(608) 326-2721
Website

 




Wisconsin State Capitol from West Washington

Wisconsin State Capitol

Wisconsin State Capitol at dusk

The Capitol at dusk.

Our Wisconsin State Capitol is without question one of the most beautiful in the country. Perched atop Madison’s beautiful isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, it’s the third Capitol building on this site and was completed in 1917.

Four wings holding offices stretch out from a central Rotunda capped with the only granite dome in the United States. The statue atop the dome, officially named Wisconsin, reaches 284 feet, 5 inches high and faces direction of Washington, DC. It was intentionally designed to be a few inches shorter than the United States Capitol. Inside, Edwin Blashfield’s mural covers the Rotunda’s interior and depicts Wisconsin’s many resources.

Wisconsin State Capitol dome view from the Rotunda

Looking up into the dome from the Rotunda.

On a visit, you can explore the passageways, the Rotunda, and lay your fingers on 43 varieties of stone and a series of mosaics and fossils including coral, starfish, gastropods, and more. Weather permitting, you can head up to the fourth floor and go outside to the observation deck where you can gaze upon the city from the base of the dome and browse the fascinating artifacts and photos inside. This year, the center of the Rotunda features “A Century of Stories”, displays and exhibits taking you through the State Capitol’s 100-year history. They include previous Capitol buildings on this block (there were several), major events that happened in and around the Capitol, and people who have shaped the state’s past, present, and future.

For better or worse, they also make laws in this building; a Capitol Tour brings you to offices, chambers, and other areas where elected representatives do their work. Plenty of shops, restaurants, bars, and museums surround the Capitol on the Square too; you can occupy a whole day just exploring this block! Free guided Capitol tours are available seven days a week. Check out a virtual reality Capitol tour here.

Wisconsin State Capitol view of Lake Monona from the observation deck

From the Capitol observation deck, the flags fly with part of downtown and Lake Monona in the background.

Wisconsin State Capitol Address:

2 E Main Street
Madison, WI 53702
Information: 608-266-0382

Tours Monday-Saturday at 9am, 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm; Sundays at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, a 4pm tour is also available Monday-Friday.