SMALL TOWN AMERICA
Villa Louis Residence and Grounds –Explore this home that has been in the same family for generations dating back to the 1840’s. Spend your time here touring the beautiful home and grounds. This Victorian estate was home to three generations of the Dousman family. The estate was first developed in the 1840’s by fur trader and frontier entrepreneur Hercules Dousman. The prominent mound was first built by Indians and later modified by several military installations. The estate offered an elegant setting, though it was flood-proof and extremely durable. The present residence was built in 1870 by Dousman’s son, H. Louis Dougsman. The family closed the estate in 1913 but returned 20 years later to establish the home as one of the first historic house museums in the Midwest. The property became Wisconsin’s first State Historic Site in 1952. Inside, guests can find original furnishings and fully restored 1890’s elegance. (This guided tour runs every 30 minutes.)
Villa Louis Visitor Center – Explore the history of the city and learn some of the best attractions and dining locations. (Located at the same stop as Villa Louis)
Crawford County Courthouse/1800’s Jail – Learn the history of Prairie Du Chien’s first jail and enjoy the stories of the men that occupied the cells.The courthouse as it stands today was built in several stages. The oldest central section dates back to 1867. An earlier courthouse on this site was built in 1836 when Wisconsin became a territory. The Territorial Prison, referred to as the “Dungeons,” are located in the basement. The jail’s main function was to hold felons for a short time and was constructed in 1843. The jail was operational until the present jail was erected in 1896.
The Fur Trade Museum – Exhibits documenting the fur trade are located in this stone building on the banks of the Mississippi River. Built in the early 1850s by fur trader B.W. Brisbois, the building is a designated National Historic Landmark. The museum is self-guided and visitors may linger over the exhibits that document the scope and influence of the North American fur trade. Blankets, kettles, beads and yard goods are a few of the scores of European-made goods that made up Fur Trade inventories. Then, guests can explore the Fur Trade Museum Store for unique souvenirs and gifts.
Fort Crawford Military Hospital - The Military Hospital is the only remaining structure from the second Fort Crawford. It offered care for sick and wounded soldiers beginning in 1831. Today it features many artifacts, articles, and showcases highlighting medical practices and progresses throughout history in the military.
Fort Crawford Museum – Fort Crawford stood guard over Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, from 1816 until 1856. Today, the Fort Crawford Museum displays the history of the fort, the city of Prairie Du Chien it resides in, and the many lives that crossed through. Discover the rich history of Fort Crawford, which was built in efforts to project the United States’ presence on the frontier and relocated from an island of Prairie Du Chien to the mainland in 1829 per direction of Colonel Zachary Taylor. The Fort Crawford Museum encompasses three other buildings, the Prairie Du Chien Museum, the Fort Crawford Military Hospital, and the Visitor Center. The Museum of Prairie Du Chien is a modern building with exhibits on the historic development of Prairie du Chien. Here, guests can explore events of this historical town with exhibits such as The Flood of 1965, The War of 1812, Prehistoric Fossil Collection, American Indian Artifacts and spear points, The Arrival of the Railroad, and Clamming on the Mississippi River. Guests can then explore the Visitor Center, which includes information, a museum store and a library with books on medical history. The Fort Crawford Military Hospital remains the only standing structure from the second Fort Crawford. During its operating years beginning in 1831, it offered care for sick and wounded soldiers. Dr. William Beaumont helped found the modern study of medicine when he researched digestion at the fort during the 1830s. Although the fort buildings fell into disrepair in the late nineteenth century, a portion of the hospital building was reconstructed with original materials on its original foundations during the 1930s. The building contains several exhibits, including an 1830s War Room that explains in detail Dr. Beaumont’s experiments, artifacts discovered at the Fort Barracks, The Military History of Fort Crawford, The History of Medical Progress, an antique pharmacy and dentist office, and Swift United States Army General Hospital and the Civil War.
Valley Fish & Cheese – This quirky locally-owned business carries a complete line of hickory-smoked fish, turtle meat, fresh & frozen fish and seafood, a complete line of Wisconsin cheeses, any variety of jerky that can be thought up, and many other “hard-to-find” unique items. Guest will then enjoy a presentation by the owners explaining their business and some tips on how to create jerky, prepare fish, and give a brief netting demonstration.
Prairie Du Chien Hop-On Hop-Off
PREMIUM EXPERIENCE EXCURSION
Pearls of the Mississippi
Uncover a lost culture as Captain Bob recounts the narratives of commercial clamming in the region aboard the Maiden Voyage, a fully-covered pontoon boat. He paints a vivid picture, allowing you to envision an era when the Upper Mississippi River was compared to California’s Gold Rush. Locals referred to it as the “Pearl Rush,” and the fever washed throughout the waters as millions frantically searched for their portion of the treasure; the Mississippi freshwater pearl. Discover these river tales and learn how the era began and what unfortunate events lead to its abrupt end.
APPROXIMATE DURATION 1.5 hours
CAPACITY 40 Guests
12:30 PM – 2:00 PM
SIGHTS YOU WILL SEE
Scenic views of the Mississippi, Native Wildlife along the banks of the river
THINGS YOU WILL EXPERIENCE
Guided Pontoon-Boat Tour on the Maiden Voyage, Stories of the Mississippi’s Lost Era: The Pearl Rush, Elegant Pearl Buttons and Freshwater Pearls, History of Commercial Clamming and Trapping
As the oldest community on the Upper Mississippi River, Prairie du Chien has been a traditional gathering place for centuries. The native people of the area met on the prairie in friendship to exchange goods. In the late 17th century, French fur traders used the prairie as a site for spring and fall rendezvous. It was during these years that the land received its name, which translates as “Prairie of the Dog” in French. When the British took over the fur trade, Prairie du Chien became of greater importance because whoever controlled the prairie, controlled the entire Upper Mississippi watershed. After years of fighting for control of this land, the British eventually left the fort, leaving the residents of Prairie Du Chien and the Native American Indians. Discover the rich history lining the streets of this historical city as you explore the treasure Prairie du Chien has to offer!