Visit to the Fort Winnebago Surgeons’ Quarters

Fort Winnebago surgeon’s quarters before restoration, Portage, Wisconsin, ca. 1919. (WHI #42905).

Earlier this week I spent the day in the town of Portage, just a short drive north of Madison. My first stop was the Fort Winnebago Surgeons’ Quarters. Originally built in 1824, this log structure was the home for medical officers and their families stationed at Fort Winnebago between 1828-1845. In the 20th century, the building took on a new life when it was acquired and restored by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The DAR saw that many of the original furnishings–including furniture made by the soldiers at Fort Winnebago–were returned to the Surgeon’s Quarters. I’ll be returning later this summer to photograph some of this important collection for the database.

Next I followed Nancy Kreier, board member of the Portage Historical Society, to the nearby Historic Indian Agency House. Built in 1832 as the home of John Kinzie, United States Indian Agent to the Ho-Chunk Nation, the house was restored by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. It’s furnished in the Federal style to the period of the early 1830s. An intriguing connection for me is that Polly Stone–co-founder of the Chipstone Foundation, the organization that funds and supports my work–was a member of the Colonial Dames and a leader of the restoration efforts here. It was great to finally get to see the legacy of Mrs. Stone’s work.

After that, Nancy took me to the Museum at the Portage, the museum operated by the Portage Historical Society. The Society is relatively young (established in 1996) but they have done an excellent job of interpreting and exhibiting local history. The museum is housed in a great building, too–the former home of noted American author Zona Gale.

Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.

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