This austere classical house, standing on a four-acre lot on the shore of Lake Mendota, has been the residence for Wisconsin’s governors since 1949. The house was built for one of the state’s leading industrialists, Carl Johnson. He and his brothers—owners of the Lakewood Land Company—helped develop Maple Bluff, where they envisioned a suburb of industrial executives’ mansions lining the lakeshore, with the modest homes of the employees of the family’s factories, the Gisholt Machine Company and the Fuller and Johnson Company, clustered to the east. The employees, perhaps unwilling to live under their bosses’ watchful eyes, avoided the development, which languished until after 1945. Executives, however, did come, attracted by the extraordinary beauty of this maple forest perched on a bluff overlooking the lake.
A two-story Doric portico shelters an elaborate arched entrance crowned by a broken scroll pediment. Pilasters and arched windows with prominent stone surrounds and keystones run across the stuccoed sandstone facade. The copper roof was added in the 1960s.