San Damiano Property History

  1. ho-Chunk History
  2. Frank Allis House History
  3. San Damiano Friary History

San Damiano was originally the site of encampments created by Indigenous peoples of the region, including ancestors of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Cultural historians of the Ho-Chunk believe that the property’s height off the Lake, its natural sitting in direct view of the setting sun, and its underground freshwater spring would have made it a particularly attractive location to gather and settle. Several arrowheads (points) and an old British coin have been found in its gardens.

Records from the Wisconsin Historical Society provide further evidence of Ho-Chunk influence. With the exception of the northeast corner, the property falls within the potential boundaries of an uncatalogued human burial site known as the Monona Drive burial group. The existence of this group was confirmed in the late 1800s by professional mound surveyor T.H. Lewis. He recorded the presence of two bird effigy mounds and twenty-four conical and linear mounds in the area between Lake Monona and what is now Bainbridge Street.

His account does not allow for a determination of precise locations of the mounds, nor their arrangement, and all surface indications of the mounds have been removed. But because San Damiano has been less disturbed than surrounding properties, the possibility that sub-mound burials and off-mound burials survive on its grounds is higher than on adjacent land.

A full archaeological survey of the site will be commissioned prior to any changes being made to the property.