"Preserving the Past for the Future"
Van Orden Mansion
Open Friday & Saturday
May - October , Noon to 4 p.m.
541 4th Avenue, Baraboo, WI 53913
This 14 room Tudor Revival style mansion was built for Baraboo banker Jacob Van Orden, his wife, Martha and the their two children in 1902-03. It replaced an earlier 1879 house on the site, also built for the Van Ordens, which was purchased and moved across town by Otto Schadde in 1902.
When Jacob Van Orden moved to Baraboo with his widowed mother, Jane Struthers Van Orden, in 1874 he was 18 years old.
He became employed with the First National Bank of Baraboo as a "general utility boy and clerk." By 1879 he had risen in rank and become cashier of the bank, a position which he filled for more than thirty years. Later he became president of the bank, now known as Baraboo National Bank. In 1879, local architect and builder, Thomas Thompson, was commissioned to design and build a house on this site for Jane Van Orden, Jacob's mother, and Jacob and his fiancee, Martha Atwood. The structure was finished in 1880 and cost about $3,000. A barn was also built at the same time, part of which may be incorporated in the current structure on the neighboring property
The family grew to include a son and daughter and eventually an addition was made to the rear of the house. The house was also equipped with all of the modern conveniences receiving city water in 1887 and city gas in 1888.
In 1897, Jacob's mother, Jane Van Orden had a house built for herself on the corner of the property which today is privately owned. In 1902 the Van Orden's economic and social status called for the construction of a grand new house. In May of that year the old house, built in 1879, was sold to Otto Schadde who moved it across town to the corner of Fifth and Wheeler Streets where it stands today. Milwaukee architects, Ferry and Clas, were employed to design a new residence for the Van Ordens and in October of 1902, Alfred Clas, came to Baraboo to stake out the grounds for the building. The new mansion cost about $10,000 and was completely up-to-date with gas and electric lighting, indoor plumbing including a separate master bath and a spacious ball room on the third floor. A mantel from the old house was retained and installed in the third floor ball room where it remains today.
Jacob Van Orden died in 1927 and his wife, Martha, died in 1932. The house was then owned by their son, Lucas Schuyler Van Orden, and lastly by his wife, Florence. She sold the house to the Historical Society in 1938 for $9,000, less than what it had cost to build the house thirty-five years earlier. The house was then converted into the Sauk County Historical Museum. The lack of numerous owners over the years has kept the house in remarkably original condition. The exterior has changed little. Missing porch roof railings were replicated and re-installed in 2013. The interior is a near time capsule of original woodwork, flooring and wall treatments. Five fireplaces, marble sinks, original light fixtures, pocket doors and original maid's and butler's pantries can still be seen. Although the house is not entirely set up as a house museum, several pieces of Van Orden furniture are still in the house and little has been done to change the rooms themselves.
The museum contained in the Van Orden mansion is the result of over one hundred years of donations to the society. Thousands of artifacts and memorabilia relating to Sauk County or its inhabitants are displayed in many of the rooms on two floors of the mansion.
The first floor of the museum is partially handicapped accessible with off street handicapped parking available behind the mansion via the alley and a ramp to the first floor. There is no handicapped accessible bathroom at the mansion. These facilities can be found at the history center which is nearby.