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Visiting Elmside near Madison’s Olbrich Park

This house was owned by one of Madison’s earliest pioneers.

The front of an Italian vila-style sandstone mansion in Madison, Wisconsin.JPG

Simeon and Maria Mills built this mansion in 1863. | Photo by 608today

The elegantly named Elmside, was once not so elegantly named.

When the Italian villa-style sandstone mansion was built in 1863 on 191 acres, it was called “Mills Folly,” since the property was comically far away from Madison’s town center (at the time). Located at 2709 Sommers Ave., it’s now not far from Atwood Avenue’s bustling thoroughfare of bookstores, breweries, and eateries.

Who thought it wasn’t a folly at all? Its owner, Simeon Mills. Simeon, and his wife Maria, came to Madison from Ohio in June 1837, when Madison was only a year old.

Mills wore many hats including being Madison’s first storekeeper, justice of the peace, newspaper publisher, and insurance company owner.

    In other words, he was busy and had the means for the palatial estate. His wife disliked it, however, so they moved closer to town after a few short years at Elmside. Decades ago, it was made into the apartments that remain to this day.

    Is there a Madison mansion in your neighborhood that you’ve been curious about? Let us know.

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