Local legend identifies this Georgian residence of Jane Fisher Rolette as the house of her uncle, French Canadian trader Michel Brisbois, but it postdates his death. In fact, Jane Rolette’s exhusband Joseph, also a trader, built the house for her as a condition of their separation in 1836. Joseph had worked as an independent agent for John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company when Prairie du Chien was the hub of the Upper Mississippi fur trade. By the 1820s, he controlled trade with the Sioux on the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers and ranked among the wealthiest men in town. But the fur business began to decline in the 1830s, and Joseph’s business partner, Hercules Dousman, usurped his position as the region’s leading trader. Joseph turned to drink, and his marriage ended. Jane lived in the house with her cousin, B. W. Brisbois, until 1844, when she married Dousman (see CR2).
Among the finest residences in Prairie du Chien when it was built, the side-gabled house is characterized by symmetry, simplicity, and sturdiness. Its grey-buff limestone walls are eighteen to twenty-four inches thick, set in regular courses on the facade, with a lime mortar burned from clam shells. The regular rhythm of six-over-six windows, aligned horizontally and vertically, the central paneled door framed by a four-light transom and sidelights, and the slender, engaged Doric columns are hallmarks of Georgian design. The gabled porch is an early twentieth-century addition, detailed with fluted columns to match the entrance. The one-story addition to the south probably dates to that time as well.
The interior is organized around a central hall. On the ground floor, the living room occupies the entire north side, with the south half split into a dining room and a kitchen. A fireplace with a formal, classically inspired mantelpiece dominates the north wall. Windows are deeply recessed into the thick stone walls and trimmed with white pine.