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Serafino and Cettina Castagna House, “First Villa”

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1924. 613 2nd Ave. N.
  • (Photograph by Mary Soetebier Stauffer)

From its beginning, Hurley was known as a wild frontier town, where miners and lumberjacks flocked after a hard week’s work and left most of their wages in the hands of saloonkeepers, prostitutes, and professional gamblers. Even Prohibition (1919–1933) hardly affected Hurley’s reputation as a “wide open” town, as arrest records show. Illicit suppliers kept covert saloons busy. They probably included Serafino and Cettina Castagna, Italian immigrants who built their house, known as First Villa, expressly for bootlegging in 1924. To disguise this illegal trade, the Castagnas constructed an uncommonly attractive two-story, hipped-roofed house. Its uncoursed fieldstone walls, two feet thick, are laid with beaded mortar joints, and a stringcourse of cobblestones divides the two stories, giving the building rich polychromy. Cobblestones also form the chimney and the walls along the steps and the central entrance porch. Glazed green Spanish tiles on the roofs add more color (these were removed in 2021). Inside, multiple basements stacked one on top of the other provided secret hiding places for storing liquor away from the eyes of federal revenue agents. The house was purchased by Alfred and Elsie Soetebier in 1931 and has since remained in the family.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.
Updated By: 
Catherine Boland Erkkila (2023)



  • 1924

  • 2021

    Roof replaced

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Marsha Weisiger et al., "Serafino and Cettina Castagna House, “First Villa”", [Hurley, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 305-305.

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