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Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record


Architecture and History Inventory
18904 COUNTY HIGHWAY G | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:First Capitol
Other Name:Wisconsin Territorial Capitol (DOA #245051065)
Contributing: Yes
Reference Number:16242
Location (Address):18904 COUNTY HIGHWAY G
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:NW
Quarter/Quarter Section:NE
Year Built:1836
Survey Date:1991
Historic Use:government office/other
Architectural Style:Boomtown
Structural System:
Wall Material:Clapboard
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: First Capitol
National Register Listing Date:4/28/1970
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989
National Register Multiple Property Name:
Additional Information:A 'site file' exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the State Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation.

DOA name for building is "Council House."

Tiny Belmont was the birthplace of state government not just for Wisconsin, but for Iowa and Minnesota, too. Wisconsin Territory, organized in 1836, encompassed all three present-day states, along with parts of the Dakotas and a disputed area in what is now northern Illinois. Soon after President Andrew Jackson signed the bill creating the territory, Governor Henry Dodge made Belmont its capital. The choice made more sense than it might seem: at the time, Belmont sat near a thriving lead-mining district, the most densely populated part of the new territory. As it turned out, the legislature held just one session in Belmont, in late 1836. After much political wrangling, the assembly decided to build a new capital on the swampy isthmus that is now Madison.

Today, the reconstructed First Capitol commemorates Belmont's fleeting glory days. Like many structures in hastily built frontier towns, the original two-story clapboard building had a false front that masked the front gable, making the structure more imposing. Legislators entered through an off-center entry. Five evenly spaced windows, with twelve-over-eight sashes, lit the chambers inside.

After the legislature left, the Council House (as it was then called) fell into disrepair. By 1906, souvenir hunters had stripped it down to its frame, doors, and casings. At that point the Wisconsin Federation of Woman’s Clubs campaigned to preserve it. State funding for the project began in 1917, and the women’s federation dedicated the reconstructed First Capitol in 1924. The gabled building next door was the Territorial Supreme Courthouse. Together they are now a Wisconsin Historical Society museum.
Bibliographic References:MINERAL POINT DEMOCRAT TRIBUNE 6/20/1996. DARLINGTON REPUBLICAN JOURNAL 6/20/1996. Buildings of Wisconsin manuscript.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, State Historic Preservation Office, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory Citation
Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, "Historic Name", "Town", "County", "State", "Reference Number".