Council and Court houses


Step into the original meeting place of the state legislature, explore Wisconsin’s territorial beginnings, and experience the founding of its government.

Home / Explore

About Us

Visiting First Capitol brings you back to Wisconsin’s beginnings, in the rooms where it happened! It was within the walls of these restored historic structures that debates raged over how this new territory would govern itself. While at First Capitol, you can browse engaging exhibits and walk through the halls where the framework for Wisconsin’s government was crafted, including the establishment of a judicial system, roads and railroads, and naming Madison as the permanent capital city. You can enter the Council House where Wisconsin history was made and visit the Court House where the state legislators were housed during these early sessions. 

Things To Explore


Enter the council house where Wisconsin history was made. Decades after the session, the building was moved, converted into a private residence and later a livestock barn. The house was later brought back to the site and restored in 1924


Explore the building where the state legislators were housed during these early sessions. Despite its name, court sessions were never held here. After the session, it became the residence of Territorial Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles “The Court” Dunn before being moved across the street and converted to a livestock barn. The house was moved back to the site and restored in 1956.

Visitor Guide & Map

Learn with the Wisconsin Historical Society

Field Trips

The best day of your school year awaits! Don’t just read about history, experience it! Field Trips at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s historic sites and museums allow students to step into the worlds they’re studying through fun adventures and engaging experiences around the state for grades k-12. 

Wisconsin Historical Society Sites

First Capitol is one of the 12 historic sites and museums owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Explore all of these sites below.

Black Point Estate, a view of the tower and the rest of the building, the clouds are beautiful and really frame the building.

Black Point Estate & Gardens

A circus cart on a lawn, bright red, yellow, and orange colors.

Circus World

The two historical buildings of Wisconsin's First Capital

First Capitol

An old fashioned camera is set up facing a dramatic photo backdrop

H.H. Bennett Studio & Museum

Wood cabin style building with antlers attached. A sign reads Museum

Madeline Island Museum

A group of people bail hay out of an old fashioned cart

Old World Wisconsin

Pendarvis house at dusk,  orange colored brick and white trim windows and doors. A stone wall lines the house next to the road. The lamp is lit.


Inside the Reed School classroom, with vintage desks and a chalkboard

Reed School

A older white couple holding hands and walking towards the Stonefield buildings


The Villa Louis Manor on a sunny day, victorian architecture on elegant display

Villa Louis

People visiting the Arts and Crafts Fair at Wade House

Wade House

Rendering of the new history center from the street view

Wisconsin History Center