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Once home to United States Senator Charles Durkee, the Durkee Mansion is a cream-brick, Italianate Victorian home. It was originally constructed with an ornate wooden wraparound porch and a widows walk. One of the most striking features is the suspension stairway, located in the foyer, which is the largest stairway of its type in Wisconsin. The second floor bedrooms and the third floor (formerly the ballroom) have fireplaces, parquet floors and louvered windows, and the entire home is furnished with period furniture and fixtures. The mansion, with its gracious feel and magnificent view of Lake Michigan, is an historic landmark recognized by the National Trust for Historic Places and the Society for Preservation of Wisconsins Landmarks. It is a fitting monument to a Kenoshan who was a major influence on national and local politics. The Durkee Mansion is open to the public, free of charge on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1:00 to 4:00 from April through October.
Charles Durkee served two terms in Congress between 1848 and 1853; he then returned to his favorite city, now known as Kenosha. He was elected United States Senator in the 1854 elections and returned to Washington, D.C., where he championed workers rights and fought for progressive homestead laws.
In 1861, Senator Durkee returned to Kenosha and began construction on the new home that he and his second wife, Caroline, had planned on 10 acres of land on the lake shore.
While Senator Durkee was attending President Abraham Lincolns funeral in 1865, the new President of the United States Andrew Johnson appointed him to the governorship of the Utah Territory. St. Matthews Episcopal Church arranged to purchase the Durkee home and property in exchange for a lifetime annuity for Mrs. Durkee. The church began adding new buildings to the Senators home in order to develop it as a girls school.
November 20th, 2012
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