521 N. Villa Louis Rd., Prairie du Chien, 62 miles south of La Crosse
Built in 1870 by H. Louis Dousman, a prosperous frontier entrepreneur, and impeccably appointed by his wife, Nina, this stately hilltop estate is now one of the most authentically restored Victorian homes in the United States.
Under the auspices of the Wisconsin Historical Society, it has been painstakingly and strikingly re-created in the style Mrs. Dousman selected for her 1885 redecoration: British Arts and Crafts.
Atypical for a Midwestern home, even for a mansion of its time, the furnishings feature ornate brass filigree, hand-wrought faux grain woodwork, and lush fabrics. Throughout the magnificent home visitors will also find priceless family heirlooms, collectibles, and artwork.
While distinguished for its Victorian splendor, this expansive country estate also enjoyed a brief heyday as a hub for harness racing. Passionate about the popular sport, Dousman transformed his homestead into a breeding ground and finishing school for thoroughbred trotters called the Artesian Stock Farm. Hailed for its elegant setting and enviable stable of 75 trophy winners, the racing enterprise flourished until 1886, ending with Dousman’s sudden death. The estate was renamed Villa Louis in his honor.
Each September, Villa Louis celebrates the memory of the Artesian Stock Farm when it opens its grounds to the Midwest’s largest and most classically stylish competitive carriage driving event.
The mansion also hosts popular Victorian cooking workshops, tours by lamplight, and a historic battle re-enactment: In its premansion days the estate’s sprawling lawn had served as Wisconsin’s sole battlefield in the War of 1812.
Open daily May – Oct. Admission charged.