For far over a century, a crumbling Victorian home in the small Wisconsin agricultural community of Eureka has been slowly sinking in on itself. While the abandoned estate stood out in a community surrounded by farmland and filled with barns, the legends linked with it make it much more fascinating. From twin twins to gangsters, the Foote Mansion has piqued the interest of Wisconsin residents since the nineteenth century.
Foote Mansion was supposed to be a dream home
Argalus and Augustus Foote, twin brothers, erected the Foote Mansion in 1852. Growing children, the brothers were so close that they couldn’t envision being separated as adults. When the couple married (in a double wedding to ladies with the same initials as their own), they set out to create a house for their burgeoning brood.
Rather of building two separate houses, the twins agreed to construct one large house in which each family would reside in their own portion of the mansion.
The only known portrait of Argalus and Augustus Foote. (Photo Credit: Daniel Butkiewicz/ Oshkosh Public Museum)
The Foote home was built in two halves, with one half identical to the other. The Foote brothers erected a gorgeous Italianate residence for their families, which was painted cream and green.
The ceilings were 12 feet high, and the windows were 9 feet tall. The home was capped with a cupola, allowing the brothers to keep an eye on their ever-expanding acreage. Visitors entering the front doors would find two unique kitchens, four different parlor rooms, two dining rooms, and almost a dozen bedrooms. Each half of the home was built to be a mirror image of the other half.
Drawing of what the Foote Mansion looked like before it began to crumble. (Photo Credit: Daniel Butkiewicz)
In Eureka, this home stood out. After all, Eureka had only approximately 200 residents, and Wisconsin had only become a state in 1848, so the majority of the state was still mostly wilderness. The Foote brothers most likely picked Eureka as their home because it was located on the Fox River and so had the potential to become a large sawmill town.
When the home was finished in 1852, Augustus and his wife Ann, as well as Argalus and his wife Adelia, moved in. The brothers flourished in Eureka at first, buying acres surrounding their home until they owned the largest farm in town.
Argalus and Adelia had three boys by 1855, and Augustus and Ann were expecting their first child around Chr***mas. Things were looking good for the Foote family, and their housing situation appeared to be working out beautifully.
On December 19th, 1855, however, tragedy struck Augustus when his wife Ann died in childbirth. A few months later, Augustus’s newborn daughter died.
Randy Domer, an Oshkosh historian, describes the impact of this tragedy on Augustus. “It was reported that Augustus was inconsolable and rightly tormented with grief,” Domer writes. He mentioned leaving the mansion. Being surrounded by his ideal would serve as a daily reminder of his awful loss. Something he felt unable to tolerate.”
Crumbling interior of the Foote Mansion. Pictured here is what was once the central hall of the house. (Photo Credit: Daniel Butkiewicz)
After Ann’s death, the Foote brothers stayed in their mansion for a few more years before relocating to Oshkosh, where they started a flour mill. However, their new firm suffered in Oshkosh, and the Foote brothers finally lost the majority of their money.
The Foote brothers died in 1901 and 1902, respectively, and were buried next to one other at Eureka’s little cemetery.
Folklore and gangsters
After the Foote brothers relocated to Oshkosh, the house passed through a number of hands before falling into disrepair.
Not only did the abandoned estate get the moniker “Foote’s Folly,” but it was also renowned locally as the most haunted farmhouse in Wisconsin and a hideaway for mobster Al Capone.
The community of Eureka claims that the home is haunted by Civil War spirits. By the mid-1930s, Eureka tourism was capitalizing on the mansion’s ghost legends by offering haunted Halloween tours.
Historian and author Dan Butkiewicz recalls speaking with someone who used to live in the farmland’s trailer on the mansion’s property who told him that she “liked to go in there (the mansion) at night, pull up a chair, and listen to the noises in the house, such as footsteps on the second floor.”
However, the most renowned mythology surrounding the Foote estate is infamous mobster Al Capone. During Prohibition, Al Capone allegedly utilized the massive basement to manufacture whiskey.
“It is true that mafia members like Capone were on occasion, genuinely sighted going through this region, en-route to the northern forests to hide out until things cooled off,” Randy Domer says. Domer, on the other hand, feels that the claims concerning Capone and the Foote Mansion are simply local legend.