Town halls are the most visible symbol of the Wisconsin system of town government. In many states, the thirty-six-section townships drawn by the federal land survey in the nineteenth century simply delineated a geographical grid. In Wisconsin, however, the state constitution made each of the townships a functioning local government. They became the most important political unit for citizens living outside the boundaries of incorporated cities or villages. As local governments provided more and more services, many of these towns replaced their older halls. This one is a rare survivor.
Local carpenter Hocking built the Italianate structure in 1891 and may well have designed it. Its false front was a common and economical way to make a simple front-gabled building look imposing. Hocking enhanced the clapboard building by adding pediments to the doors and windows and a bracketed parapet wall clad with sheet metal. A round, louvered ventilator pierces the wall just below the parapet. A window in the center of the facade between the two doors reflects the building’s dual function. The window and the right-hand door mark the location of the town clerk’s office, whereas the left-hand door opens onto a vestibule leading to the auditorium at the rear.
From its beginning, the town hall also held a so-called opera house for theatrical and other community events. This one remains remarkably intact with tongue-and-groove walls and ceiling, and oversized, scroll-sawn brackets with walnut pendants. A wooden balcony, whose rail is not original, looks out over the stage. Behind the stage’s proscenium arch, shaped like a basket-handle, hangs a replica of the original canvas drop curtain, hand-painted with a panoramic view of Venice.