Prairie du Chien had its beginnings on this island. It was the first location of Fort Crawford, which was involved in the War of 1812, and is the home of the historic Villa Louis mansion, the origin of which goes back to Joseph “King” Rolette and Hercules Dousman, who made fortunes in fur trading and land dealings. The mansion already had some “natural” flood protection since it had been built on a large Indian mound. Through the years a variety of industrial and commercial operations developed on the island. The four-story Dousman Hotel thrived in the heydays of the railroad and served a variety of other uses, including a stint as an Oscar Mayer packing plant in the 1930s and 1940s. The building is now classified as a historic structure and is being restored.
This is where the industry that supported the city in the 1800s was located, so rail access was installed in 1890. After repeated floods and fires, the city was relocated to the mainland on the Wisconsin side, which was higher and far less prone to flood. Industry remained on the island, gradually closing down or moving to the mainland until well past World War II.
The site of the Battle of Prairie du Chien during the War of 1812 and of the First Fort Crawford where three important Indian treaties were signed. Home of the Villa Louis Historic Site. Ideal for walking and biking, watching ducks and eagles, boat landings, and picnic areas.
From the middle 1860s until early 1900, it held the depot for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. St. Feriole Island was Prairie du Chien’s Fourth Ward until the Corp of Engineers spent $500,000 to relocate the residents after the record Flood of 1965. Today St. Feriole Island hosts several major annual attractions and many small family outings. The third week in June is when the Prairie Villa Rendezvous is held. In July the Chamber of Commerce Fireworks, War of 1812, and the Prairie Dog Blues Fest draws crowds. The Carriage Classic brings an elegant equestrian style to the island in September.