what remains in Belmont is certainly nothing so grand as the oft-preserved and restored structure in Iowa City, but the buildings are older. when the Wisconsin Territory was established in 1836, a land speculator who established the town of Belmont, John Atchison constructed four public buildings in town to attract lawmakers. the ploy worked and on September 9, 1836, territorial Governor Henry Dodge said that at least the first legislative session would meet at Belmont.
part of Belmont’s selection as capital likely due to the population density that nearby lead mines occasioned. at the time, that area was the most populous in the territory. not surprisingly, some questioned Dodge’s intentions in selecting Belmont, insinuating that he’d accepted some sort of bribe. to counter this cynicism, after lengthy debate (and promises of land from speculators in town) lawmakers selected Madison as the permanent capital for the Wisconsin territory.
during the interim, however, the territorial government met in the public houses of Belmont, passing laws that created the structure of Wisconsin’s government and judicial system and established new counties. after the legislative session ended in December, the legislature never met in Belmont again, though they did meet in Burlington (now Iowa) for a time before the town became part of the Iowa territory and forced the government to move to Madison earlier than anticipated.
two buildings still stand at the site of the original territorial capital, one used as the Council House and the other as lodging for legislators.. the Mineral Point Railroad built tracks that passed to the southeast of the original location and many residents and businesses relocated to the new town. the current town of Belmont is three miles from the original site. eventually, the remaining buildings became residences (the latter belonging to the territorial Supreme Court Justice Charles Dunn) before conversion into barns. they’re now owned and maintained by the State Historical Society.