Godfrey Louis (“Lou”) Cardine Interview, May 30, 1973.

Griffith H. Williams Papers, 1875-2001.

Wisconsin Historical Society. Audio 919A/3.

Lou speaks about Prairie du Chien and the Dousman House.

Dousman Hotel converted to a meat packing plant in the 1940s,

after being built by the railroad in 1864.


The Dousman Hotel was named after Hercules L. Dousman, an early Wisconsin fur trader and land speculator.






Website Transcriptions:


Dousman Hotel

From Wikipedia.

Dousman Hotel

U.S. National Register of Historic Places

U.S. National Historic Landmark

Location: Fisher St. and River Rd., Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

Coordinates: 43°314N 91°935W / 43.05389°N 91.15972°W / 43.05389; -91.15972Coordinates: 43°314N 91°935W / 43.05389°N 91.15972°W / 43.05389; -91.15972

Built/Founded: 1864

Architectural style(s): No Style Listed

Governing body: Private

Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966[1]

Designated NHL: October 9, 1960[2]

NRHP Reference#: 66000122

Dousman Hotel is a site significant for being one of the major hotels in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. The Dousman Hotel was named after Hercules L. Dousman, an early Wisconsin fur trader and land speculator, who became the state's first millionaire.[3]

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.[2][4]

 [edit] References

1.^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. http://www.nr.nps.gov/.

2.^ a b "Dousman Hotel". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=50&ResourceType=Building. Retrieved 2008-01-02.

3.^ St. Feriole Island

4.^ Blanche Higgins Schroer (Undated) National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Dousman Hotel, National Park Service and Accompanying 4 photos, exterior, from 1975.

[edit] External links

Dousman Hotel: 28 photos, 3 drawings, 31 data pages, and supplemental material, at Historic American Building Survey



XI The Advance of the Frontier 1763-1830

Form No: 10-300 (Rev. 10-74)

United States Department Of The Interior

National Parks Service

National Register Of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form


See Instructions In How To Complete National Register Forms

Type All Entries—Complete Applicable Sections

1.       Name

Historic:                       Dousman Hotel

            And/Or: Common:      Dousman House

            (other:                         Dousman House Hotel)

2.      Location

Street & Number:       Fisher Street at River Road     _Not For Publication

City, Town:                  Prairie du Chien                      _Vicinity Of: Third

State:                           Wisconsin                                Code:55           County: Crawford        Code: 023

3.      Classification

Category                     Ownership                   Status                          Present Use

__District                    __Public                      __Occupied                 __Agriculture              __Museum

X  Building(s)               X  Private                     X   Unoccupied            __Commercial                        __Park

__Structure                 __Both                         __Work In Progress    __Educational             __Private Residence

__Site                          Public Acquisition        Accessible                   __Entertainment         __Religious

__Objects                    __In Process                __Yes Restricted         __Government            __Scientific

                                    __Being Considered    __Yes Unrestricted     __Industrial                 __Transportation

                                                                        X  No                            __Military                   X  Other(Storage)

4.      Owner Of Property

Name:                                     Rybarczyk Brothers Gas Company (608) 326-6616

Street & Number:       N. Water Street

City, Town:                  Prairie du Chien                      __Vicinity Of   State: Wisconsin

5.      Location Of Legal Description

Courthouse, Registry of Deeds, etc:   Crawford County Register Of Deeds

Street & Number:

City, Town:                                          Prairie du Chien                      State: Wisconsin

6.      Representation In Existing Surveys

Title:    none known

Date:                                                                                                   __Federal __State __County __Local

Depository For Survey Records:

City, Town:

7.      Description

Condition                                 Check One                   Check One

            __Excellent     __Deteriorated           __Unaltered                __Original Site

            __Good            __Ruins                       __Altered (major)       __Moved         Date________

Describe The Present And Original (If Known) Physical Appearance

The 1864-1865 Dousman House was a three-story building of buff-colored brick, with a wide central pavilion under a wide central gable.  Mid-Victorian in Style, the building has a definite vertical accent in the raised basement, high stories tall cupola and many big windows.  All the windows and doors were outlined with half-circle moldings in brick and stone sills.  The cornice line was accentuated by wide eaves supported by large brackets.  A low entablature band in a contrasting color outlined the semi-circular trim of the windows and the peak of the wide gable.


Large quoins lined the corners of the building and the sides of the central pavilion.  The entrance porch stretched across the entire central block of the first story, with a door and staircase at both ends.  The large square cupola had a flat roof with cross-gables and three tall, slender, round-topped openings on each side.


The extant building today can barely be seen on some sides amid all the additions which surround it.  The basic rectangular brick structure is there, but on many sides hidden by almost a dozen additions which sometimes reach above the second story.  The corner quoins and the many tall, arched windows with brick trim (nearly all bricked over or covered with metal or vinyl) are the only decorative features visible.  The roofline is basically the same, but the cupola is gone—replaced by a wooden addition to the roof.  Also gone are the heavy cornice, and entablature decorations as well as the front porch.


The interior of the old hotel has been almost entirely gutted, although a few of the original 51 guest rooms may remain.  The former first story and basement are now the concrete-lined slaughter house and cooler.  One account described the rendering plant, built within the old hotel, as three stories, 32 by 32 feet.  One rather graphic c. 1949 description of the extent of the remodeling of the building noted that the old hotel barroom and storeroom in the northwest basement was the boning room, and the grand old dining room space was part of a larger cooler, chilling carloads of meat.


Since the meatpacking firm left in 1952, the building has been empty or used for storage of equipment, and just further deteriorated.

8.      Significance

Period                                      Areas of Significance—Check And Justify Below

__Prehistoric                 __Archeology-Prehistoric             __Community Planning                  __Landscape Architecture           __Religion

__1400-1499                 __Archeology-Historic                                             __Conservation                                    __Law                                                         __Science

__1500-1599                 __Agriculture                                        __Economics                                          __Literature                                           __Sculpture

__1600-1699                 __Architecture                                     __Education                                           __Military                                                                        __Social/Humanitarian

__1700-1799                 __Art                                                           __Engineering                                       __Music                                                     __Theater

X   1800-1899               __Commerce                                         X   Exploration/Settlement          __Philosophy                                         __Transporation

__1900-                             __Communications                           __Industry                                                                       __Politics/Government                  __Other(Specify)


Specific Dates: 1864-c. 1925  Builder/Architect

Statement Of Significance

Now much altered and deteriorated, the Dousman House was the largest, most luxurious, and last-built of the several large hotels in Prairie du Chien during the 19th century to house travelers, immigrants and businessmen while the town was an important steamboat and railroad terminus.


The Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad company, which first completed their line to Prairie du Chien in 1857, began construction of the grand hotel in 1864.  Situated facing the Mississippi River, on the bank of St. Feriole Island, and right next to the new train depot, the Dousman House was soon successful as the most convenient, as well as the most grand, of the towns hotels, and became a famous stop on the Upper Mississippi.  The three-story brick hotel, with 51 guest rooms and a large dining room, was completed at the end of the Civil War at a cost of approximately $50,000.  It was named in honor of Colonel Hercules Louis Dousman I, the most prominent citizen of Prairie du Chien, long-time fur agent, steamboat owner and supporter of the railroads, whose estate was located about one-quarter mile north of the hotel.  The Dousman hotel was operated as a hotel until about 1925.  The building was unused for about a decade, until May 1937 when William D. Carroll purchased the hotel from the Wanamingo Ferry Company and converted it to a meat packing plant for the short-lived Carroll Packing Co.  In April 1939 Carroll leased the plant to Armour Packing Company of Chicago.  The owner build a three-story, 32 by 32 foot rendering plant inside and around the old hotel, and the plant began operation in March 1940.


The Oscar Meyer Company bought the plant and operated it 1946-1952.  Afterwards the structure was owned by a bank in Iowa City for some years.  In the last decade a local gas company has owned it and uses it for equipment storage.


The original 1959 Historic Sites Survey report of potential landmarks in Prairie du Chien stated only that the Dousman House “would require extensive restoration.”  The owners have never indicated any interest in the national historic landmark program.  The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, which owns several nearby structures and the adjoining property, for some time considered purchasing and restoring the old hotel.  However, so much of the building has been lost, so many of the additions are so large and substantial, that the restoration estimate of nearly $2 million was prohibitive.

9.      Major Bibliographical References

(See continuation sheet).

10.  Geographical Data

Acreage Of Nominated Property: about 3 acres

UTM References

A: ZONE:15      EASTING:649900         NORTHING:4768140

Verbal Boundary Description

Lots 1, 2, 3, 4, and 11, 12, 13 and 14, of Block 24 Main Village Plat, City of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

List All States and Counties for Properties Overlapping State or County Boundaries

State    Code    County Code

State    Code    County Code

11.  Form Prepared By

Name/Title:                 Blanche Higgins Schroer, Landmark Review Project

Organization:              Historic Sites Survey, National Park Service

Street & Number:       1100 “L” Street, N.W. Telephone:      (202) 523-5464

City or Town:               Washington                 State:               D.C. 20240

12.  State Historic Preservation Officer Certification

The Evaluated Significance Of This Property Within The State Is:

National__                                          State__                                                Local__

As the designated State Historic Preservation Officer for the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (Public Law 89-665), I Hereby nominate this property for inclusion in the National Register and certify that it has been evaluated according to the criteria and procedures set forth by the National Park Service.

Federal Representative Signature

Title     Date


I hereby certify that this property is included in the National Register


Director, Office Of Archeology and Historic Preservation    Date


Keeper Of The National Register


Form No. 10-300a

(Rev. 10-74)

United States Department Of The Interior

National Register Of Historic Places

Inventory—Nomination Form

For NPS Use Only


Date Entered

Continuation Sheet     Item Number: 8          Page: 2

For a number of years the NPS regional representative reported biennially on the deplorable condition of the site—which has been in essentially the same condition since more than a decade before the national historic landmark study was made.  August 25, 1975 the Mid-West Regional Director sent a cover memo to the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation calling attention to the biennial report of Grant Peterson which recommended possible revocation of the Dousman Hotel’s landmark status.  Mr. Peterson wrote August 15, 1975:

“The Dousman Hotel has now deteriorated to the point where I believe consideration should be given to its removal from the National Register of Historic Places.  Alteration of the building’s interior and numerous additions to the structure have further altered its historic integrity.”

Form No. 10-300a

(Rev. 10-74)

United States Department Of The Interior

National Register Of Historic Places

Inventory—Nomination Form

For NPS Use Only


Date Entered

Continuation Sheet     Item Number: 9          Page: 1

Budahl, Lee “Architecture in Prairie du Chien Before 1900,” unpublished master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1967.

Newspaper article in The Courier, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, September 15, 1952.

Short report on history of Dousman Hotel prepared by railroad employees, Prairie du Chien resident, and former Dousman House employee c. 1946.

Information provided by Don Munson, Ray Sivesind and Rick Dexter of State Historical Society of Wisconsin Staff; and Grant Peterson, NPS, Chicago Field Office.

Comprehensive Development Plan for Historic St. Feriole Island prepared for State Historical Society of Wisconsin by Department of Administration, Bureau of Facilities Management, April 1971.

GPO 892 455



Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

County of Crawford.

National Register Number: 66000122

 Resource type: Building.

 The threat level was Watch in 2004.

Congressional District: Wi-3 Certified Local Government: NO 

 Statement of Significance (as of designation - October 9, 1960):

Constructed 1864-65, this three story, buff-colored brick structure is the largest, most luxurious and last built of several large hotels in Prairie du Chien during the 19th century, while the town was an important river steamboat and railroad terminus. It was used as a stopping point by thousands of emigrants to the West after the Civil War.






Prairie du Chien’s recorded history was ushered in June 17, 1673 when Marquette and Jolliet came down the Wisconsin River and were the first Europeans to see the Mississippi River. Traditionally, the name of Prairie du Chien came from the French for Prairie of the Dog, an early Fox chief who lived on the prairie.


French Canadians, engaged in the fur trade, settled on the island by the river, and the fur trade made the first major economic impact on the settlement. Each spring fur traders and Native Americans met on the prairie to exchange furs for guns and other goods. Prairie du Chien was neutral territory; conflicting tribes laid down their arms before attending the rendezvous.


Gradually the British took over much of the fur trade centered in Prairie du Chien. In the early 1800s, the Americans asserted their presence with the building of Fort Shelby. During the War of 1812, the British and Americans skirmished for control of the fort and the prairie. July 1814, the only battle of the war fought in Wisconsin happened here and is known as The Battle of Prairie du Chien. The fort was burned.




In 1816 Fort Crawford was built on the Indian mound now occupied by the Villa Louis. Hercules Dousman brought the American influence to the fur trade, his impact on the Territory and Prairie du Chien is hard to overestimate. In 1825, 1829 and 1830 important treaties were signed with the area tribes at Fort Crawford. During the winters of 1829 and 1830 Dr. William Beaumont, army surgeon, conducted the experiments that are still the basis of understanding the digestive process. A series of bad floods in the 1820s destroyed the wooden fort leaving it uninhabitable.


The second Fort Crawford was built of stone on higher ground which occupied the site where Wyalusing Academy stands. In 1832 Black Hawk, Sauk warrior, surrendered to Colonel Zachary Taylor at the fort ending the 4-month Black Hawk War. The fort was abandoned and troops removed in 1856, but the fort was used again during the Civil War for recruiting and for an overflow hospital. Some immigrant families lived there until they could find or build other housing.




In April 1857 the railroad came to Prairie du Chien and determined the economic and social life of the community for a century. That summer a young John Lawler came as the station agent. Lowertown grew up as a boomtown around the depot just west of Fort Crawford Museum in the area south of the fort. Uppertown grew up along Main Street north of the fort. 


In 1864 the depot was moved to St. Feriole Island; the center of the town shifted and Lowertown began a decline from which it never recovered. The railroad built a hotel on the Upper Mississippi known first as the Railroad House and later renamed Dousman House.


About that same time John Lawler bought much of Fort Crawford and donated a block to Catholic nuns for St. Mary’s Academy. St. Mary’s was a respected school until the late 1960s. He was also instrumental in building the first high school in 1875 and is credited with being the founder of Sacred Heart College in the 1880s. It became the famed Campion College and Campion Jesuit High School which closed in 1975. Lawler made his money transferring railroad cars and passengers across the river first by ferry. In 1874 he launched the pontoon railroad bridge that operated until 1961 and was dismantled in the early 1960s. Lawler Park was named after John Lawler, Prairie du Chien’s greatest philanthropist.


The city was incorporated in 1872, and in 1873 a disastrous fire took the Kane Hotel and the Traner Carriage Factory. The Kane had been built in 1855 as the Phoenix and was the anchor of the Uppertown. The Kane and the factory faced each other on what is the intersection of Main and Wisconsin Street. In the aftermath of the fire the business district moved up Bluff Street, now Blackhawk Avenue. In 1876 a group of citizens drilled the artesian well on the corner of Wisconsin and Minnesota, now Wacouta Avenue, paving the way for the development of the sanitarium industry.




From 1890-1910 railroad excursions became the rage, and Prairie du Chien became a popular destination. In the summer of 1900 over 30,000 people came on the train for three events, the Great Railroad Excursion on May 27, The Ringling Circus in July and the infamous stay of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show on August 20. A small riot broke out between Buffalo Bill’s entertainers and some local people; shots were fired and considerable property damage was done before William Cody came riding down the street on his impressive horse calling his entertainers back to order.


In 1892 the Woolen Mill was organized and survived three fires to become Prairie du Chien most important employer until the late 1940s when the advent of synthetic fabrics reduced the demand for wool.


About 1895 the clamming and pearl button industry became important. Thousands dug clams and sold shells to the button factories. Two large factories and several small ones operated in Prairie du Chien. Only blanks were cut here which were shipped to Lansing or Muscatine for finishing. Clammers kept looking for the big pearl that would make them rich. The Cardin family sold a 54-grain, perfect pearl for $2,000 in 1901 and built the family home with the money. 


In 1912 the Prairie City Canning Company was formed. Farmers were contracted to grow cabbage and tomatoes for the princely sum of $5-7 a ton. A careful farmer could get 20-25 tons per acre. Supposedly the sandy soil made the sweetest tomatoes. Today a successful gift shop, The Cannery, has rejuvenated the old building on North Marquette Road.


Since 1785, history records at least 40 major floods. The record flood in 1965 is the only one to surpass the 2-crest flood of 2001.  




Historical Sites in Prairie du Chien


1. St. Feriole Island

The island is the site of the city’s earliest activities, the center of the fur trade, home of the first Fort Crawford, site of the Battle of Prairie du Chien in 1814 and three important Indian treaties. From the middle 1860s until early 1900 it held the depot for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. St. Feriole Island was Prairie du Chien’s 4th Ward until the Corp of Engineers spent $500,000 to relocate the residents after the record Flood of 1965. Today St. Feriole Island hosts several major annual attractions and many small family outings. The third week in June, The Prairie Villa Rendezvous is held. In July the Chamber of Commerce Fireworks, War of 1812  and the Prairie Dog Blues Fest draw crowds. The Carriage Classic brings an elegant equestrian style to the island in September.


2. Villa Louis

(St. Feriole Island) Villa Rd. and Bolvin St. - This Victorian estate was home to three generations of the Dousmans. The estate was first developed in the 1840s by fur trader and frontier entrepreneur, Hercules Dousman. The prominent mound was first built by Indians and later modified by several military installations. The estate offered both an elegant and a flood-proof setting. The present residence was built in 1870 by Dousman’s son, H. Louis Dousman. After living in St. Louis for more than a decade Louis and his wife Nina Sturgis Dousman returned in the mid-1880s. Louis established the Artesian Stock Farm to breed and race trotting horses. Nina directed a major remodeling of the residence. After a brief illness, Louis died in 1886 and life for the Dousmans changed. The horses were sold, paddocks became fields and the estate was dubbed Villa Louis, as a memorial to young Dousman. The family closed the estate in 1913 but returned 20 years later to establish one of the first historic house museums in the Midwest. The property became Wisconsin’s first State Historic Site in 1952. Today it is open daily May - October. The site retains its original furnishings and since 1995 it has been  extensively restored to its 1890s elegance. National Historic Landmark and National Register of Historic Places.


3. Brisbois Store - Fur Trade Museum

(St. Feriole Island) Water St. - Built in 1851-52 by fur trader and merchant, B.W. Brisbois, this stone building sits on land with a long association with the North American fur trade. Prior to the War of 1812, the property was owned by a number of prominent traders and companies. During the War a log structure on the property was used by U.S. soldiers for housing while nearby Fort Shelby was under construction. After the War, the property became the site of a U.S. Fur Factory. In the 1820s the land was sold to the American Fur Company who held it until its sale to Brisbois in 1850. Through much of the twentieth century the building was known as the Riverside Boat Repair. The Wisconsin Historical Society acquired the building in the 1970s and established the Fur Trade Museum. Operated in conjunction with the Villa Louis, the building is open May - October. National Historic Landmark and National Register of Historic Places.


4. Brisbois House

(St. Feriole Island) Water St. - As part of a separation contract negotiated in 1836,  Joseph Rolette agreed to build this stone residence for his estranged wife, Jane Fisher Rolette. Built from surplus limestone sold by the government after the construction of Fort Crawford, the house was erected on property owned by Jane’s maternal relatives, the Brisbois. After Rolette’s death, Jane married his business partner, Hercules Dousman, and moved to the famed House on the Mound. Jane transferred the property to her cousin, B.W. Brisbois, and the house remained in his family until the end of the 1900s. In the 1950s the Cornelius family restored the residence and gave the property to the State Historical Society. Today it is operated in conjunction with the Villa Louis. National Historic Landmark and National Register of Historic Places


5. Rolette House

(St. Feriole Island) Water & Fisher Sts.- In December 1840, Joseph Rolette began construction of this frame house. Unfinished upon Rolette’s death in 1842, the house was purchased by its builder, Henry Brandes. In the 1870s it was extensively remodeled, becoming a hotel, then a boarding house. Restoration of the house to its 1840s character is not complete. National Register of Historic Places.


6. The Dousman House Hotel

(St. Feriole Island) Fisher St. - The Railroad House was touted as the premier hotel on the Upper Mississippi when it was built by the railroad in 1864. Since Hercules Dousman owned so much of the railroad stock, the hotel was renamed after him in 1867. In the 1940s it was converted to a meat packing plant and later served as a warehouse. The property is undergoing redevelopment.  National Historic Landmark and National Register of Historic Places.


7. Lawler Park

(St. Feriole Island) Water St. - In the early fur trading days canoes landed on this beach. In 1930s the WPA constructed the stone retaining wall and filled the shoreline with dirt. This favorite park was named for John Lawler, the builder of the famed pontoon railroad bridge. Visitors can enjoy the Walk of History, a series of 10 marble etchings telling highlights of Prairie du Chien’s past.  


8. Old French Cemetery

Located several miles out on Frenchtown Road (County K) is the old burial ground. The first recorded burial was 1817. Basil Giard and Joseph Rolette are buried here. Records are at St. Gabriel’s.  


9. Calvary Cemetery

Located several miles out on Frenchtown Rd. (County Hwy K) across from Old French Cemetery. Hercules Dousman deeded the land to St. Gabriel’s before the Civil War. The prominent Dousman plot is near the center of the cemetery.  


10. Francois Vertefeuille House

Hwy K - Designated as the oldest structure in Wisconsin on its original site, it was built by a voyager, Francois Vertefeuille. The house is built in the French-Canadian manner. It is now privately owned. National Register of Historic Places.        


11. Strange Powers House

338 N. Main – Built between 1818-1824. The house is privately owned. National Register of Historic Places.


12. St. Gabriel’s Church, School and Cemetery

506 N. Beaumont Rd. - The parish dates back to the 1820s and the stone church to 1836. The early settlers met in a log cabin on the banks of St. Feriole Slough. In 1908 the church was modernized when the twin spires and the new front were added. Father Galtier, early priest here and the founder of St. Paul, is buried in front of the church. The cemetery behind the church holds the graves of most of Prairie du Chien’s early Catholics.  St. Gabriel’s is the oldest operating parish in Wisconsin.


13. LaRiviere-Ravoux House

316 N. Beaumont Rd. - Pierre LaRiviere, a prosperous farmer built this home. Pere’ Augustin Ravoux, first pastor of St. Gabriel, lived in this house in 1843 while translating the Catholic catechism into the Sioux language. This property is privately owned.


14. German School

202 North Wacouta, across from the Courthouse - Built in 1868 to serve the educational needs of Prairie du Chien’s German-American community, the school flourished until 1876. In 1885 the building was converted to a house by Major Edward Whaley, a disabled veteran of Wisconsin’s famed Iron Brigade who served as Prairie du Chien’s postmaster. This house is privately owned.


15. Crawford County Courthouse

220 N. Beaumont Rd. - The courthouse as it stands today was built in several stages. The oldest central section dates back to 1867. An earlier courthouse on this site was built in 1836 when Wisconsin became a territory. The Territorial Prison, referred to as the "Dungeons" are located in the basement . The Territorial Prison or more practical word, jail, since its function was to hold felons for only a short time,  is believed to have been constructed in 1843, five years before Wisconsin became a state. The jail was operational from that point on until the present jail was erected in 1896. A monument to Robert Lester, the Sheriff of Crawford County killed in the line of duty in 1844, when Wisconsin was still a territory, is located at the entrance to the Sheriff's Department headquarters at the Courthouse. National Register of Historic Places.


16. Cornelius Family Park & Prairie du Chien Regional Tourism Center

Located on U.S. Highway 18 at the base of the Marquette-Jolliet Bridge this structure houses the Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce/Tourism office and Regional Tourism Center . The grounds feature the 1910 statue of Father Marquette which was relocated from St. Mary’s Academy. Today the statue points to the river remembering the 1673 voyage of Marquette and Jolliet.


17. W.H.C. Folsom House

109 Blackhawk Ave. - Folsom, a businessman, built this residence in 1842. Captain Wiram Knowlton, a prominent attorney, recruited local militiamen from his office in this building during the Mexican War, and naturalist John Muir worked here briefly as a printer. In the 1920s the house was acquired by the League of Women’s Voters who renovated the structure and used it for their headquarters. In 1960 the League deeded the house, known locally as the Knowlton House, to the State Historical Society. National Register of Historic Places.


18. The Joseph & Emma Linzenmeyer Wachute Memorial Library

125 Wacouta - In 1876 an artesian well drilled on the site shot water in the air almost 1,000 feet. The water was used for fire protection, for the nearby sanitarium, and bottled for sale. In 1907 the city bought the property and turned it into the Artesian Park. In the early 1960s Joseph and Emma Wachute left money for a library which was built on this site. In 1976 his brother Charles left money to the city if they would rename the street where he lived after him. Since he spelled his name differently from his brother, the Wachute Library is on Wacouta Avenue.


19. Post Office

120 S. Beaumont Rd. - Today’s post office building was constructed in 1936 as part of the Works Projects Administration program. Inside is a relief sculpture of Marquette and Louis Jolliet.  National Register of Historic Places.


20. Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

220 S. Michigan - The Little Brown Church was built in 1856 by grain merchant H. Baldwin. Originally services were held at the second Fort Crawford.


21. Evergreen Cemetery

S. 15th St. - The land was set aside for burials in the late 1840s by James H. Lockwood, one of the city’s earliest settlers. Many founders of modern Prairie du Chien are buried here.


22. The Old Rock School

South Marquette Rd at Parrish St. - Originally constructed in 1857, the school served elementary students until the school consolidation movement in the mid 1900s. In the late 1980s the American Legion with the city’s support added the Veteran’s Memorial. It honors local soldiers who fought in wars from the Black Hawk War through WW II.   National Register of Historic Places.


23. Prairie du Chien Correctional Facility

500 E. Parrish - The Wisconsin prison for young offenders occupies a historic site. Dating from the 1880s Sacred Heart College then Campion College and High School were dedicated to the education of young men. After Campion closed in 1975, Wisconsin Synod Lutherans operated Martin Luther Preparatory School for 15 years.


24. The Fort Crawford Military Cemetery

One of the nation’s smallest cemeteries, it has 64 internments -18 known and 46 unknown. Originally only officers serving at Fort Crawford and their families were buried there. Later soldiers were moved from the enlisted man’s plot and from Evergreen. Unfortunately, their names were lost. Most years Memorial Day services have been celebrated here.


25. O.E. Satter County Building

111 W. Dunn - Once part of the second Fort Crawford, this land was bought by John Lawler in the late 1860s and served as his estate where he planted hundreds of evergreens, many of which still stand. In 1902 the family estate was sold. In 1903 the Prairie du Chien Sanitarium was erected. In the early 1930s O.E. Satter came as a young doctor to work for the Sanitarium. Sometime later the Sanitarium became General Hospital with Satter as its director. In 1976 he sold the building to Crawford County which has used it for offices since. Now at the turn of a new century another generation is deciding the fate of this old building.


26. Wyalusing Academy

601 S. Beaumont Rd. - John Lawler gave this site, once part of the second Fort Crawford, to Catholic nuns for a girl’s school in 1870. St. Mary’s Academy educated young women for almost a century before it closed in 1968. Wyalusing Academy, a private institution, is dedicated to helping students who have had difficulty in traditional schools to learn life and job skills.


27. Fort Crawford Museum

717 S. Beaumont Rd. - The second Fort Crawford Hospital was first occupied in 1831, with Dr. William Beaumont as the first surgeon. Zachary Taylor, Jefferson Davis, and Chief Black Hawk are also associated with the second Fort Crawford. Some tireless DAR women bought the site in the 1920s and in the 1930s it was reconstructed as a WPA project. Until 1995 the site was known as The Museum of Medical Progress and was owned by the State Medical Society of Wisconsin. Since 1995 the museum has been owned and operated by the non-profit Prairie du Chien Historical Society. Today it is open daily May - October. National Historic Landmark and National Register of Historic Places.


Historical Resources


Fort Crawford Museum 608-326-6960

Villa Louis Historic Site 608-326-2721

Prairie du Chien Public Library 608-326-6211

Crawford County Clerk 608-326-0200

St. Gabriel's Catholic Church 608-326-2404

Wisconsin Room - University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Karrmann Library, Platteville

Lower Wisconsin River Genealogical & Historical Research Center, PO Box 202 Wauzeka, WI 53826-0202



Mississippi Island Hotel To Return To Glory Days

February 04, 1990|By Steve Kerch.The Ross Development Co. of Chicago, already active in historic renovation with the conversion of a former Lockport mill into a brew pub, will tackle the restoration of the Dousman House Hotel on historic St. Feriole Island in the Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien, Wis.


The 100-room hotel will be restored to re-create the 19th-Century ambiance the property enjoyed after it opened in 1864 as a western railroad terminus for passengers transferring to riverboat or wagon travel west of the Mississippi.


``With the legalization of riverboat gambling in Iowa and Illinois, the opportunity for a vintage hotel catering to riverboat traffic on the Mississippi is perfectly timed,`` said Richard Murray, president of Ross Development.


The hotel already includes an operational riverboat landing, railroad spur, restaurant, shops and meeting facilities. Murray said he would explore the idea of resuming a steam locomotive excursion service between Chicago and the Dousman House.


Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Dousman once counted among its prominent guests members of the McCormick and Armour families, as well as a delegation of 12 area Indian chiefs who gathered there before embarking for Washington, D.C., and a treaty signing.


When Hugh Robinson made the first airplane flight across the Mississippi in 1911, he landed in front of the Dousman House amid a crowd of well-wishers. ``It`s an incredible building, and I kind of got hooked on it,`` Murray said of his decision to pursue the project.


``It`s on a 200-acre island in the Mississippi River that is the original site of Prairie du Chien. But it is in a flood plain, and the Army Corps of Engineers some years ago moved off every contemporary building. All that`s left is the street grid and the historic settlement.``


An adjacent train depot comes with the hotel and can be redeveloped as well, Murray said. Those two structures were allowed to remain on the island when Wisconsin exempted them from the flood plain requirements.


The old hotel has been reincarnated once.


``It was one of the most bizarre re-uses I have ever heard of,`` Murray said. ``The place was converted in the 1940s into a meat packing plant, complete with a stockyard in the back.``


Because the channel that runs in front of the hotel is home to an endangered species of clam, all commercial and barge traffic past the island has been rerouted to another channel, Murray said. That paves the way for shallow-draft pleasure boats to move unmolested around the island.


``I really go over my sites thoroughly before I buy,`` he said. ``That`s why I know that when people could drive right down to the water that a lot of necking went on out on the island. So we`re going to restrict the water`s edge to pedestrian, boat, horse and rail traffic, the way it originally was.``



City Planner Garth Frable presented information about the extension of sewer main to St. Feriole Island. He said it appears under state code the mains can be developed, but he does not yet have definitive answers. The mains are desired for the Dousman Hotel and the new ballparks. Items still up for discussions include the developer paying for the extension and the location of the new main. Action on this issue was tabled.



Villa Louis celebrates 50th anniversary as a state historical site The Villa Louis Historical Site will be having an open house on June 3 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of becoming a Wisconsin historical site. The Villa will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free tours will be given of the Villa Louis and the 25-acre site will be open for tourists to visit. There will also be refreshments furnished by the Women's Civic Club from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call the Villa Louis' main office at (608) 326-2721.

The Villa Louis will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of being a Wisconsin historical site this summer. The Villa is a major part of Prairie du Chien's history and culture. It was the home of one of the richest men in Wisconsin and it is now a great source of tourism for Prairie du Chien and Wisconsin.

Hercules L. Dousman purchased a 25-acre piece of land on what is today St. Feriole Island, in 1843. He built a small home that he referred to as the House on the Mound.

Hercules had moved to Prairie du Chien in 1826 as an aspiring businessman, taking on a position as clerk for the fur trade guru, Joseph Rolette. After Rolette died, Dousman married his widow, Jane Fisher Rolette Dousman. They had one child named H. Louis Dousman.

Louis later married Nina Linn Sturgis in St. Paul in 1872. After marriage, they moved to St. Louis and lived there until Jane Dousman's death in 1882. The family then moved back to Prairie du Chien in 1893. They had four daughters and one son throughout their marriage.

With the help of The McGrath Company from Chicago, the Dousman family took on the major project of renovating the House on the Mound in 1885.

The renovation project was designed by Joseph Twyman. He got his inspiration for the designs from famed English designer William Morris. Morris was adamant on using hand-crafted decorative arts instead of items produced by machines that were a product of the Industrial Revolution.

Louis was known for his love of horses. He established a farm called the Artesian Stock Farm where he bred and trained Standardbred racehorses. The amount of land owned by the Dousmans expanded to 40 acres in order to account for this new racehorse farm.

Louis was not able to enjoy his dream for long. He died due to a ruptured appendix in 1886 at the age of 37. In honor of him, his wife renamed the estate the Villa Louis.

Sturgis moved East with her children, briefly residing in New York City, before moving back to Prairie du Chien in 1893.

From 1893 to 1913 the Dousmans lived in what Villa Louis Site Director Michael Douglass called the "golden years." The Dousmans had much leisure time to play golf, billiards and throw parties. This period was also documented well. That is why the Villa Louis researchers in the 1990s chose this time period when they were renovating the site.

The Dousman family lived in the Villa Louis until 1913, when they decided to move to Billings, Mont. They tried to sell the estate, Douglass said, but they were unable to do so. They lent out their home to people who wanted to use the house instead.

The Kewatin Boys School was the first group to use the home. Douglass said that these children of rich descent would have classes in the Villa Louis in the fall, then they would go to St. Augustine, Fl. in the winter and then return to Prairie du Chien in the spring. During the summer, they went to separate schools.

In the 1920s, the O'Leary family rented the estate briefly before two men named Donald and Charles Minney rented the house.

Douglass said that the Minney boys had a background in carnival entertainment.

They also decided to use the estate as a tourist attraction. They leased a portion of the land to a country club for golf, and they gave guided tours of the Villa Louis. According to Douglass, the Minneys used some old photographs that gave them an idea of how the estate was used. The rest, they made up.

Douglass said it would have been amusing to take one of the Minney boys' tours. He said that they would be talking to the tourists and then they would have someone rattling chains in the basement to give them a scare.

The guidelines of the Dousman family was that the house could be used in any way a renter wanted to use it, but nothing could be removed from the house. After the Dousmans found out that items had been sold out of their home, they became intent on making their home a historic site.

Douglass said that the Dousmans "wanted to fix their own place in history... They wanted to build a monument to their family."

A historian from Madison, Louise Phelps Kellogg, had visited the Villa Louis during a Minney tour. She saw through the false information, Douglass said, and became an advocate for making the site a historical landmark.

The site became a historical landmark in 1936 and was to be operated by the township Prairie du Chien. The city started the Dousman Municipal Park Board and the Dousman family were members. They even made special appearances at the site, arriving in carriages.

Looking to the past was also important to the citizens of Prairie du Chien, Douglass said because the Great Depression had rocked the nation and people were looking for a new beginning. They wanted to look to the past for inspiration, he said.

Douglass said the thinking was, "If we built this nation once, we can do it again," he said.

Tourism for the Villa Louis was high from 1936 to the start of World War II, but it dropped dramatically during the war, Douglass said, because of the gas and tire rationing and the decrease in traveling.

The remaining Dousman family members began to discuss with Wisconsin over the possibility of the Villa Louis becoming a historical site so that there would be more funds available to remodel the site and bring back tourism. In 1952, the site became a Wisconsin historical monument.

Douglass, who has been the site director since 1983, said that Prairie du Chien fought hard to keep the Villa Louis under their control. One mayor candidate, who eventually won, focused his campaign towards saving the Villa Louis from state control.

The city was not able to keep the historical site under their direction though and in the spring of 1952, it was deemed a Wisconsin historical site.

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