By Brian D’Ambrosio
Gideon Cooley Hixon (1826-1892) accumulated a fortune in lumber, finance, and business, and this nineteenth-century baron utilized the very best of the La Crosse, Wisconsin area’s wood for his own home. The Hixon House reflects Hixon’s contemporary preferences while providing a peek back in time at an authentic Victorian existence.
Begun in 1859, the Italianate house features gorgeous woodwork, opulent interior decoration, and an abundance of local wood – including a walnut entry, oak and birch parlor, and stunning cherry dining room – at a time when the sawmill was king. Gideon’s wife, Ellen, lovingly adorned the Hixon House in the Aesthetic fashion. There is a pervasive Oriental and Arabic influence in the house décor, which includes a teak ivory desk imported from China and parquet flooring.
The Turkish Nook room features a gold-gilt ceiling nook lined with anaglypta, a thick, embossed paper, covered in aluminum leaf and coated with a layer of amber-tinted varnish.
Hixon House, La Crosse, Wisconsin
The dining room of the Hixon House features a wall covering of leaves that was likely painted by interior designer Joseph Twyman’s daughter in 1900-01; the chandelier is made of red pebbled glass.
The Hixon House is filled with dim, masculine colors and leather, which would have been appropriate to the turn of the twentieth century. The folio in the library room is stacked with sumptuous books, including rare sets describing east coast American architecture and foreign antique collections.Over the marble fireplace is a photo of Gideon Hixon.
Hixon House, Wisconsin
Today, it stands a National Landmark Historical site, an excellent example of true Victorian architecture and “original” Victorian furnishings and clothing.
“About 90% of the furnishings in the house are original,” says Moen. “This is a really big deal because it shows that this house has not changed much since the turn of the twentieth century. Honestly, the same elements are in existence, and everything is here. From its inception, the house museum has adhered to the guidelines for historical preservation, and (the house) maintains that strong sense of antiquity and preservation.”
The two-year-long, $1.844 million restoration Moen performed from 2003-2005 included cleaning and rebuffing light fixtures, replacing old and faded carpets with exact reproductions, and reupholstering and reproducing different fabrics. He was especially careful not to undermine the structure’s evocative nature or the aesthetic wholeness of its history.
“Dark corridors remain dark corridors,” says Moen. “I believe that historical sites like this one should exude the feel and idea of total immersion. Here, you are on a little journey.”