Springtime in Portage

The Historic Indian Agency house was built by the United States government in 1832 for John Kinzie, the Indian Agent to the Ho Chunk Nation in Wisconsin. The house was restored by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in 1932.

This chest of drawers in the late neoclassical (Empire) style is said to have been made in Green Bay ca. 1825.

In late April, I headed up to Portage on a beautiful spring morning to visit the Historic Indian Agency House and meet with the site’s Executive Director, Destinee Udelhoven. I was there to photograph a single compelling artifact–a chest of drawers that, according to early Agency House records, was made in Green Bay around 1825. Although a more specific history is unknown, the use of an unusual wood type (tamarack) and the rough construction methods that lie behind the chest’s  fashionable facade certainly suggest that it could have been made in an early 19th-century settlement in the Great Lakes region. A full catalog entry with several photos will be online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database later this spring.

During my visit, I couldn’t resist snapping some photos of the site in its springtime glory–including a cat from the caretaker’s house who was patrolling the grounds.

Cat in front of the Agency House's split-rail fence.

The tri-lingual welcome sign on the front door of the Visitors Center.

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3 responses to “Springtime in Portage

  1. What a great find – is that inlay? KDM

  2. It is inlay! I’m not completely sure of the material…mother-of-pearl seems like the likely candidate. I’ll have more images of this piece in the database soon (plus the objects from your collection, I promise!).

  3. Portage is an amazing city! Did you happen to get to see the Museum at the Portage? I don’t think that they have the wealth of decorative arts the Indian Agency House has, but it is also a delightful visit.

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