The North House is one of two City of Madison Landmark and National Historic Landmark homes situated on parkland along the west shore of Lake Mendota. This land was once part of a larger estate called Thorstrand (Thor’s Beach). This estate was established in the 1890’s on about 50 acres of farmland by Magnus Swenson, a Norwegian Immigrant and one of Wisconsin’s leading citizens of the early 20th century. He and his family planted thousands of trees converting the original cornfields into the mature woodland it is today.
Magnus Swenson was born in Norway in 1854 and immigrated to Janesville Wisconsin at the age of 14. He went on to become a successful scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, business man and civic leader of historic importance locally, nationally and internationally.
In 1922, Swenson retired to Thorstrand after building two homes. The Swenson House, for himself and wife Annie and another, the North House, for his daughter Mary, her husband Kent North and their three daughters. After Magnus Swenson’s death the estate was divided into thirds. The middle third containing both homes was retained by Mary North. One third was developed and the other eventually purchased by the City of Madison for Marshal Park. In 1979, two years after Mary North’s death in 1977, her land was also purchased by the City of Madison and the houses were designated landmarks to ensure their preservation. The buildings now sit on leaseholds with 99 year renewable Ground Lease Agreements to the year 2080.