Early stage inns were constructed along the route of the military road, trails, plank roads, and stage routes across Wisconsin. The majority were constructed between the 1840s and the 1870s and were typically located at the intersection of two roads or trails. In addition to providing a place to rest, the inn also served meals to travelers and included a tavern. As the railroad advanced across the state, railroad hotels replaced stage inns. Rather than abandoning the buildings, some owners converted them to other uses like grocers, stores, private residences, and dance halls.
Roadside Highlight: Dousman Inn, Brookfield
The Dousman Inn (listed in the National Register of Historic Places on January 15, 1979), located at 15670 Blue Mound Road in Brookfield, was located at the historic intersection of the Blue Mound Military Road and the Watertown Plank Road. Both roads were important arteries of migration into the interior of Wisconsin. Situated one-half day's travel west of Milwaukee, the inn became an important stopping place in the 1840s and 1850s. It is believed that Michael Dousman constructed the inn in 1843. After Dousman's death in 1854, the property was sold to Daniel Brown. Brown continued to operate the inn and it was a popular destination for travelers. Large numbers of immigrants traveled along the road as they moved toward the interior, stopping at the inn for rest, refreshment, and entertainment. The Watertown Plank Road was difficult to maintain and the development of the Milwaukee and Watertown Railroad made it obsolete. Brown sold the property to Friedrich Zimdars in 1873, but by that time railroads had already replaced the plank and stage roads as the primary routes across the state. Eventually the inn became the Charles Dunkel family residence and the Watertown Plank Road became a suburban commercial strip. The Dousman Inn has been relocated from its original plank road site and restored. It now houses a museum.
The Dousman Inn, c.1977.
In recent years the inn
was moved north of
its original location.
Courtesy of Jim Draeger,
Other notable Wisconsin stage inns remaining include Fuhrman's Hotel in Pipe Village (Fond du Lac County), the Payne Hotel in Saukville (Ozaukee County), Wade House in Greenbush (Sheboygan County), Hawks Inn in Delafield (Waukesha County), the Prairie Spring Hotel in Willow Springs (LaFayette County), and the Plough Inn in Madison (Dane County).