Area Spotlights: Brisbane House

Posted April 17, 2023

Spotlight Brisbane House

This week's Area Spotlight takes us to a Brisbane House in Arena. Located just 13 minutes away from APT and nestled in the scenic Driftless countryside, Brisbane House is a newly-renovated historic landmark filled to the brim with character. Read on for more!

Brisbane House

7050 Reimann Rd, Arena, WI 53503
| (608) 576-6696

APT had the chance to connect with Samantha Crownover, owner and historian behind Arena’s Brisbane House, a historic bed and breakfast with a charmingly eclectic feel that keeps APT patrons coming back summer after summer.

A Little Background

The Brisbane House is newly opened for guest stays! It's a beautiful tall, skinny stone house on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Just restored, it sleeps up to six people in the main house and up to ten in the house and adjacent “summer kitchen". Altogether there are five bedrooms, containing seven beds, and two full bathrooms.

We had had our eye on this singular, beautiful place, on 18 wooded acres for nearly 30 years! We purchased it two years ago and in lightning speed restored and furnished it. Over 150 people contributed to its preservation. Of course, it was an expensive endeavor AND we wanted to share it with the community, so we've opened it up to guests through Airbnb and VRBO.

The man who built it in 1868, William Henry Brisbane, was an abolitionist from South Carolina. Dedicated to human rights, we wanted to highlight his courage and his story. Read acrostics he wrote dedicated to his wife along with other snippets from his diaries in a recently-made collage. In order to further honor his legacy, all of the contemporary art on the walls is by nationally recognized artists of color, and there's a small library of anti-racist books and books by Black authors.

The Experience

The Brisbane House is a great stop for those who love to binge on APT! Pick three or four plays over the course of a long weekend and stay overnight. Picnic on the APT grounds or grill out at Brisbane before-hand. In late June and early July, black raspberry bushes ring our property for all-you-can-eat berry picking sessions! Sitting in the audience, an especially magical feeling is after the "curtain" falls on the play up the Hill and as you look up, in the dark, to see the stars shining overhead. Sustain that feeling by staying at Brisbane where there's nothing but trees surrounding you and a big starry sky above. Brisbane is only about ten minutes away from the theater, right off of Hwy 14, but tucked into the bluffs.

The drive off of Hwy 14 is super-picturesque, it sets the tone for a relaxing stay in the woods. At first glimpse, the tall, skinny building is breathtaking! There's plenty of room to spread out, as Brisbane House is surprisingly spacious inside and rests on 18 acres. You can set up a game of croquet on the lawn, hang out on the screen porch, and hike the trails up to the restored prairie and Rattlesnake Ridge overlooking the WI River Valley (and maintained by the Prairie Enthusiasts).

Heritage tourists will love it here, especially the beautifully restored 1868 stone home featuring warm wood floors, 24" thick stone walls, re-plated hinges, and heirloom quilts, as well as modern amenities like new bathrooms and kitchen, contemporary art, USB outlets and dimmer switches.

The new kitchen features new appliances, custom cabinetry by a master craftsman (and French horn player) with a Carrera marble countertop, a harvest table made of local cherry wood, and the existing quirky pie-safe upper cupboards from the 20s or 30s. The kitchen and living room have soaring 10' ceilings and both are graceful spaces with clean lines. Gas fireplace in the living room. The summer kitchen bedroom, nearly all windows, is an uplifting retreat, with a new screen porch attached. It's a blend of historic appointments and modern luxuries, a project of a lifetime!

The Community

The Brisbane House is the only building in Arena, Wisconsin listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. It is a valuable piece of Arena's history, stones carved from its overlooking bluff, and has been a well-loved place by many community members for over 150 years. Many families in the area have relatives who lived there and has been affectionately known as the Stone House Farm, the pencil house, the Thudium place, and the house that splits raindrops. Its new iteration of a guest house has been warmly received by the town and its community. We're also excited to help celebrate Arena's Centennial this year with a dramatic reading from William Henry Brisbane's journals by actor Sam White and a poetry reading by Madison's former Poet Laureate, Fabu, on September 10.

What's up this summer?

In the warmer months, stop into 1855 Coffee House for your favorite morning drink, get a dozen beautiful, farm fresh eggs from Mazo Hardware Hank, grab some local bacon from Carr Valley Cheese or the Crappie Shop in Arena, and cook up a delicious breakfast. Climb up the hill to the restored prairie and Rattlesnake Ridge, behind Brisbane, and take in the view of the River Valley. Take a nap. Get up and go into Spring Green to Wander Provisions for snacks or the Frozen Local for a gelato or ice cream treat. Browse for a new title at Arcadia Books and buy a beautiful tea towel at Convivio. If it's a Friday night, head to the Bistro in Lone Rock for their fish fry and World's Fair Donuts or home made pie. OR picnic at APT before the show and settle in for an exciting night at the theater!

Want to see more of the Brisbane House restoration journey? Find them on social media!