Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record


Architecture and History Inventory
398 MILL ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Carlos Douglass House
Other Name:Geneva Lake Conservancy
Reference Number:66812
Location (Address):398 MILL ST
City:Fontana On Geneva Lake
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1841
Additions:C. 1959
Survey Date:1984
Historic Use:house
Architectural Style:Gabled Ell
Structural System:
Wall Material:Stovewood
Other Buildings On Site:0
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: Douglass--Stevenson House
National Register Listing Date:4/3/1986 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
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 Wisconsin Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation. Description:

The Mill House is a significant stovewood structure. The nine-room, L-shaped house includes a one story, north-facing gabeld wing with open scrollwork porch, and an east-facing front-gabled, one and one half storied portion. There is a recent rear kitchen adition. A portion of stovewood construction was discovered by the present owners, Philip and Jean Harvey (1984), during a recent restoration of the interior walls with horsehair and lime plaster. The exterior fabric is rough stucco, except on the porch, which is clapboard. Narrow cornerboards and medium width cornice boards are present. Two-over-two windows previal, except on the later one story wing extension, which includes a large eight paned window, with a small circular window in the gable. The structure also has a stone foundation and a wood shingled multi-gabled roof. The former house, which is in excellent condition, currently functions as a retail building.

Related to the dwelling is a barn/garage (WL 46/30).

Architectural/Engineering Significance:

The stovewood construction found at the Mill House is significant, both because of its rare occurrece in this part of the Wisconsin, and because of the posited early date, which must be verified. The house is being restored with care, in materials and workmanship.

Historical Background:

Carlos L. Douglass was born in New York state, but the family moved to Michigan when he was just a year old. They moved again in 1837, first to Chicago, then to Big Foot Prairie near Walworth where Carlos spent his childhood on the large farm of his father, Christopher Douglass. In about 1852 he purchased the Montague mills property in Fontana. He built a large grist mill, called Big Foot Mills (not extant, on Mill Street), in 1857, and in 1860 converted Montague's saw mill into a grist mill also (now a private house, Main Street, 46/26). During this period of time, Douglass laid out lots on his land along Main and Mill Streets and sold them for the construction of stores and dwellings. Thus, the village of Fontana grew up around his house and mills. The house in which the Douglas family lived (Main and Mill, 46/3) is built of stovewood, an unusual type of vernacular construction. Historic sources conflict as to the builder of the house. Most attribute the house to Douglass, but others state that the house was built in 1845, the year that Richard Montague built his sawmill,which would indicate that Montague also built the house.

Carlos L. Douglass not only caused a village to form around his mills, he took an active part in shaping that village. In 1860, when the citizens of Fontana were ready to build a school, Carlos Douglass donated a lot on his hilltop property overlooking the village (west of the present school, out of survey area). He donated another lot nearby in 1887 for the first chruch building in Fontana (moved to Kinzie and High, 93/21). For the second Fontana school, built in 1893, Douglass sold the village a large lot (site of the present school on Main Street) for $300. Douglass was a member of the school board all of his adult life. Also active in politics, he was elected to the Wisconsin legislature in 1873, and served as Chairman of the Barod of Supervisors of the town of Walworth for thirteen years.
Bibliographic References:A. Interview with Philp and Jean Harvey, present owners. B. Tax Records, Walworth County Courthouse. C. Douglass, Carlos Lavalette, Ledger Book, 1839-1859. Fontana Public Library, local history. D. Butterfield, C. W., "History of Walworth County, Wisconsin," 1882, p. 800. E. Sharon "Reporter," 1/13/1898; Walworth "Observer," 1/14/1898, (Obituaries, C. L. Douglass). F. Lake Geneva Regional News, 5/20/1926. G. Fred Noer, Jr., "Historic House Found," Walworth "Times," 9/6/1984. H. Sharon "Reporter," 1/13/1898; Walworth Observer 1/14/1898; Stork Scrapbook, 18, LGPL. Butterfield, 800: "News." 5/20/1926. Elkhorn Independent 2/7/2001.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

Have Questions?

If you didn't find the record you were looking for, or have other questions about historic preservation, please email us and we can help:

If you have an update, correction, or addition to a record, please include this in your message:

  • AHI number
  • Information to be added or changed
  • Source information

Note: When providing a historical fact, such as the story of a historic event or the name of an architect, be sure to list your sources. We will only create or update a property record if we can verify a submission is factual and accurate.

How to Cite

For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model:

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