WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
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Temporarily closed

for public programming in 2021

Experience the Victorian Era on a captivating tour of the exquisite mansion and estate of the Dousman family.

About Us

2 boys looking through a window and one woman looking behind them

When you walk through the doors of Villa Louis, you step into the life of one of Wisconsin’s most historic families – The Dousmans. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, this National Historic Landmark offers a panorama of Wisconsin history, beginning with the arrival of early fur traders through the heyday of the Victorian era. Costumed interpreters lead tours of the grand mansion, one of the most authentically furnished Victorian houses in America.

Villa Louis is a 25 acre site with three major historic components. The largest concentration of historic structures is the Villa Louis mansion complex. Consisting of five buildings constructed on an elevated mound, this is what remains of the Dousman family’s sprawling 19th century estate. Along the waterfront south of the mansion complex are three historic structures built between 1837 and 1850. The families who lived and worked in these buildings were active in the Upper Mississippi-Great Lakes Fur Trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The archaeological remains of Fort Crawford are visible north of the mansion complex along with a replica log blockhouse reconstructed by WPA workers in the 1930s. Built on the very site of the only War of 1812 battle to take place in what today is Wisconsin, Fort Crawford was one of a series of U.S. military installations constructed to cement America’s tenuous hold on its Northwest frontier.

Things To Explore

Close-up image of statue in Villa Louis

Tour the Mansion

In 1870, H. Louis Dousman contracted with the renowned Milwaukee architect E. Townsend Mix to design and construct a new home for the Dousman family. Mix chose the popular Italianate style and the use of Milwaukee pressed brick. When completed in 1871, the home boasted the modern conveniences of indoor plumbing and steam heat, making it comfortable as well as stylish. Today the mansion has been meticulously restored to its historic appearance, standing as a showcase of Victorian architecture and design.

An elderly couple on a tour of Villa Louis

Explore the Estate

Villa Louis is much more than a mansion. The 25 acre site includes over a dozen historic structures, including the Rolette House, Brisbois House, Dousman Office Building, Ice House, Preserve House, Laundry, Stable, Blockhouse, Bath House, Pump House, and the foundations of Fort Crawford. You can also explore the site’s beautiful lawn, ponds, and gardens.

 

Line of men firing guns in a field

Step on a Battlefield

The lawn of what would become Villa Louis was the site of Wisconsin’s only War of 1812 battlefield. In June 1814, an American force led by William Clark arrived at Prairie du Chien and selected the site to construct a fort, which was named Fort Shelby. On July 17, a British force laid siege to the fort. The Americans surrendered on July 20 and the fort was renamed Fort McKay. The British held Prairie du Chien until May 1815, razing Fort McKay to the ground as they left.

Learn with the Wisconsin Historical Society

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Learn With Us Virtually!

Live virtual programs in your classroom or on your learners’ screens!

Building on what teachers and students love about in-person visits to our museums and historic sites, these live, interactive programs will bring creativity, critical thinking, and empowered storytelling into your home or classroom.

Explore Programs

Wisconsin Historical Society Sites

Villa Louis is one of 12 historic sites and museums owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Explore all of these sites below.

Become a Member

Black Point Estate, a view of the tower and the rest of the building, the clouds are beautiful and really frame the building.

Black Point Estate & Gardens

A circus cart on a lawn, bright red, yellow, and orange colors.

Circus World

An old fashioned camera is set up facing a dramatic photo backdrop

H.H. Bennett Studio & Museum

Wood building with antlers attached. A sign reads Museum

Madeline Island Museum

A group of people bail hay out of an old fashioned cart

Old World Wisconsin

Pendarvis house at dusk, orange colored brick and white trim windows and doors. A stone wall lines the house next to the road. The lamp is lit.

Pendarvis

A older white couple holding hands and walking towards the Stonefield buildings

Stonefield

The Villa Louis Manor on a sunny day, victorian architecture on elegant display

Villa Louis

People visiting the Arts and Crafts Fair at Wade House

Wade House

Walking by the Capitol Square

Wisconsin Historical Museum

Inside the Reed School classroom, with vintage desks and a chalkboard

Reed School

The two historical buildings of Wisconsin's First Capital

First Capitol

Learn more about all our sites here!

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