The Villa Louis, also known as Dousman Mansion, is a National Historic Landmark located on St. Feriole Island, 521 Villa Louis Road, Prairie du Chien, WI. The elegant Villa Louis mansion designed by E. Townsend Mix, was built in 1871 in the Victorian Italianate style.
The Villa and estate are a historical museum operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. The site has been restored to its appearance during the late 19th century, when it was the estate of the prominent H. Louis Dousman family.
Its vibrant hues and rich textures reflected the family’s rise to wealth and leisure living. Throughout its evolution the property was always considered an elegant and stylish Victorian country home, and much attention was paid to the grounds surrounding the mansion and outbuildings.
In 1885 the mansion was substantially remodeled and the house was redecorated in the style of the British Arts and Crafts Movement. This remodel included not only the house, but also the adjacent office. The remodeling was done by a Chicago designer from the William Morris Company of London.
In the 1990s, the discovery of numerous photographs of Villa Louis from the late 19th century allowed the historical society to undertake a major restoration of the mansion and surrounding buildings, with the help of multiple challenge grants from The Jeffris Family Foundation. Using the collection of photographs and the estate’s original furnishings, many of which were given to the site by the Dousman family heirs, the society was able to authentically restore the home to its appearance from 1893 to 1898.
The Wisconsin Historical Society hosts several events at Villa Louis, including a reenactment of the Battle of Prairie du Chien and the Villa Louis Carriage Classic, a major carriage driving competition held each September.
All photos (except exterior shot) courtesy of Villa Louis Historic Site