Before Madison became the state capital, it was in the picturesque hamlet of Belmont where the first territorial legislature met in 1836 to build the framework for Wisconsin statehood. President Andrew Jackson signed the bill creating the Wisconsin Territory and appointed Henry Dodge as its first Territorial Governor. On July 4, 1836, Wisconsin Territory came into existence. In just 46 days, from October 25 – December 9, this legislature put over 40 laws on the books which established a judicial system, called for roads and railroads, and established Madison as the permanent capital city. At First Capitol, you’ll immerse yourself in the world of these founders, walking through the buildings where these important decisions were made.
When the legislature moved to Madison, Belmont’s political prominence faded. After the promised university and railroad bypassed the town, people and businesses moved from Belmont and the first capitol site was largely forgotten. In 1908, the Wisconsin Federation of Women’s Clubs began raising money for the site’s restoration, and in 1917 the state legislature purchased the Council House. The Council House was restored in 1924 and the Court House followed in 1956