Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wood County Courthouse

Wood County Wisconsin was once part of Brown County and by the 1860's had grown in population enough to warrant independence.  The lumber industry was the catalyst for this growth with many mills located along the Wisconsin River.  The twin cities of Grand Rapids and Centralia were prominent communities and Grand Rapids received the coveted honor as the seat of county government.  In 1866 a wooden courthouse was built and was useful for a time but by 1881 it was clear that a new building was needed.

Plans for brick structure were drawn by William Waters and the construction contract let to a Green Bay firm.  The former courthouse was sold and put to use as a cigar factory which went up in smoke in 1885. The new courthouse sat on a high limestone foundation with a main pavilion to the left of a soaring tower.  At the center of the pavilion was the front entrance, gained by a flight of nine steps.  Limestone accents graced the top of the arched opening.  Above there was a large triplet window with a Roman arch with limestone accents as well.  Along each side of the pavilion at its center was a cross gable with triplet window on the first floor and an arched triplet window on the second floor, echoing that on the front elevation.  Small double windows occupied the peak of each gable.  The tower above the roof line had eight side and four louvered openings also with Roman arches matching the windows of the second floor.  A domed roof capped the tower.  The building's floor plan seemed to be the reverse of that use in the Price, Oneida and Waushara County courthouses used later that same decade.       

The histories I've research are vague about the exact date but at some point, perhaps in the 1890's Mr. Waters was asked to draw plan for a substantial addition to the courthouse.  The size of the courthouse was doubled and went from asymmetrical to symmetrical.  The tower now at the center of the structure was given  even greater height with the addition of an octagonal peaked roof. The wings on either side of the central turret were mirror images.  When completed, one was unaware that the courthouse had been altered.  The years past and the two cites became one; Wisconsin Rapids.  The building continued to serve Wood County  until it was replaced in the 1950's