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Astor Fur Warehouse facts for kids

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Astor Fur Warehouse
Astor Fur Warehouse is located in Wisconsin
Astor Fur Warehouse
Location in Wisconsin
Astor Fur Warehouse is located in the United States
Astor Fur Warehouse
Location in the United States
Location Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
Built 1828
NRHP reference No. 66000800
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966
Designated NHL October 9, 1960

The Astor Fur Warehouse is a historic fur warehouse located at Bolvin and Water Streets on St. Feriole Island in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Jean Joseph Rolette, an agent of the American Fur Company, built the warehouse in 1828. The warehouse was used until the mid-19th century; it has since been incorporated into the Villa Louis museum. The building, now a National Historic Landmark, is the only known surviving fur trade warehouse in the upper Mississippi valley.


The two-story warehouse was built from locally extracted limestone. The three-bay front facade faces the Mississippi River. A wooden beam, which was possibly inspired by Greek Revival designs, separates the first- and second-story front windows. Quoins mark the corners of the building. A staircase on the north side of the warehouse leads to an entrance on the second floor. The interior consists of three one-room floors; a hoist system moved fur between the floors.


Prairie du Chien became a fur trading center in the 18th century, largely due to the French and Canadian fur trade on the Mississippi River. After 1763 the trade came to be controlled by British firms, although many of the traders were men of French descent, although a growing number were Metis. The North West Company was particularly influential in the city, as it built an office and warehouse there circa 1805. In 1816, however, a new U.S. Law blocked foreign participation in the fur trade within the Louisiana Territory, greatly limiting British and Canadian firms' roles in the Mississippi River trade. John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company took advantage of the law by opening a post in Prairie du Chien in 1817, and it soon became the dominant trading firm on the Upper Mississippi. Jean Joseph Rolette was the company's first agent in the city, and he built the warehouse circa 1828.

In the 1820s and 1830s, the American Fur Company continued to control the Upper Mississippi fur trade and expanded its influence throughout the Louisiana Territory. Rolette and two partners split a separate fur trading business, also called the American Fur Company, from the original company in 1842; the new company rented the warehouse from its parent firm. Over the next two decades, the fur trade began to decline in Prairie du Chien, and Rolette's company ultimately closed its warehouse. The building was variously used as a warehouse, store, and machine shop over the next century. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and opened as a historical museum in 1976.

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