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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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First Capitol (DHP photo)

First Capitol (DHP photo)

First Capitol
CTH G, Town of Belmont, Lafayette County
Date of construction: 1836

The Wisconsin Territory was created by an act of Congress in April 1836; it took effect on July 3rd of the same year. The vast boundaries of this new territory included the future states of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and parts of North and South Dakota.

The elected territorial legislature met near present day Belmont, a site selected by Governor Dodge because of its geographical location and because of the population density of southwestern Wisconsin during the period. During the summer several buildings were constructed to provide a meeting place for the first territorial legislature. One of these buildings was the First Capitol. It is a simple, two-story, wood building constructed of timber purchased in Pittsburgh, pre-cut, then transported by both boat and wagon to its current location.

The Territorial legislature met here for only one session, from 25 October to 9 December 1836. During their stay here, the early lawmakers enacted 42 laws and established a judicial system. After a long debate, the legislature decided that Madison would be the permanent seat of government for Wisconsin and that Burlington, Iowa would be the site of the legislative sessions until 1839.

Abandoned by the legislature, the building became a barn, moved to a neighboring farm. In 1919, the building was acquired by the state and moved back to its original location. The First Capitol is now a State Historic Site and can be visited during the summer season. More information can be found on the Wisconsin Historical Society's website.

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