Wisconsin November 04, 2016
The Oldest Town In Wisconsin That Everyone Should Visit At Least Once
Milwaukee and Madison might be Milwaukee’s two biggest cities, but they aren’t the oldest cities in Wisconsin. That distinction goes to Green Bay, which was first visited in the the 1630s by Jean Nicolet. But thanks to the boys in green and gold, most Wisconsinites have made the pilgrimage to Green Bay, meaning it’s not so much a hidden gem as one of the most famous cities in the state.
If you’re looking for hidden history, travel all the way across the state to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin’s second-oldest city. Once again founded and settled due to fur trading, Prairie du Chien sits at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers and was a significant part of the fur trade well into the 19th century.
Located in southwest Wisconsin, Prairie du Chien has a population of just 5,911.
Most people now visit Prairie du Chien for its gorgeous scenery and views of both the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, but the city has a ton of history. It is home to five National Historic Landmarks and nine sites on the National Register of Historic Places
Villa Louis is the estate of Hercules Louis Dousman, considered to be Wisconsin's first millionaire.
The current iteration of the home dates to the 1870s. First built in the Italian Villa style, it was remodeled in the late 1880s to match the popular British Arts and Crafts style.
Watch the Bald Eagles soar.
Prairie du Chien is along the migration route for the American Bald Eagle and is a normal wintering area for these birds in the Mississippi River valley.
The Astor Fur Warehouse was built in 1928.
Built by an agent of John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company, it's now a national historic landmark. It is the only known surviving fur trade warehouse in the upper Mississippi valley.
What made Prairie du Chien attractive to its early settlers and what still brings people back are the gorgeous views.
Originally settled on St. Feriole island which was separated from the mainland by a small channel, the city was eventually relocated after a series of floods from the Mississippi River in the 1960's and 1970's.
The sweeping panorama views of the river valleys can be seen from cliffs all along the river.
Brisbois House is one of the oldest houses left in the state.
Michael Brisbois was an agent of the Hudson's Bay Trading Company before he settled in Prairie du Chien and became a baker. This house was likely built by his son around 1840 using locally excavated limestone.
A short drive to the historic Harper's Ferry, IA or Wyalusing State Park, Prairie du Chien is a great base to explore the upper Mississippi's history.
With sunsets like this, it's no wonder outdoorspeople love camping, hunting, fishing and hiking in and around Prairie du Chien.
When in Wisconsin, you need cheese.
Valley Fish and Cheese is a place to stock up on Wisconsin's favorite snack, but it's also home to one of the few remaining commercial fishermen on the upper Mississippi. You'll find everything from pickled herring to catfish bologna and jerky made from whatever can be caught. If you're lucky, you'll be get hear some fisherman stories. And you have to stop for a pic with the world's largest hand-carved muskie. Made from black willow, this guy weighs in at over 400 pounds and is 126 inches long.
Walk in presidential footsteps at Fort Crawford.
Military occupation in Prairie du Chien dates back to the War of 1812. Fort Crawford was built in 1816 to protect the area from future invasions. It's named for William Crawford, who was secretary of war under James Madison. The second Fort Crawford was built in 1829 under the direction of Col. Zachary Taylor, future President of the United States.
What’s your favorite of Wisconsin’s oldest towns? Have you been to Prairie du Chien?
For more of the Dairy State’s oldest places, check out: Here Are The 10 Oldest Towns In Wisconsin… And They’re Loaded With History.