Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Neenah City Hall

By the late 1880's Neenah had become a wealthy and progressive city.  An ostentation of mansions lined some city streets and it could also boast of many fine schools and commercial structures.  The city needed a suitable building from which it might conduct its' business.  Menasha had built a hall in 1885 and so it was resolved that Neenah should build too and go Menasha one better.  In August of 1888 the Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern noted the visit of Neenahs' Mayor and six aldermen to the office of William Waters to view the plans he proposed for the new city hall.  Not long after that visit a rare Saturday night council meeting was held in order to decide whose plans were to be used, either those of William Waters or Appleton architect Charles Hove.  A lengthy and spirited discussion was joined with Alderman William Hesse delivering an effective and eloquent speech.  The vote, taken at 11:00 PM ended in a tie with Mayor Arneman deciding in favor of Mr. Waters' design.    
The hall was to house city offices as well as the fire, police departments and was to be located on the corner of Doty and Ceder Streets.  (Ceder St. was renamed South Commercial St.)  By late October of 1889 the building was finished.  The high foundation was limestone as were the arches that formed the openings on the ground floor, the remainder of the building was a cream colored brick with bands of limestone accents.  The arches gave first floor of the structure a Romanesque feel but the rest of the building was Queen Anne in style with a tower of 135 feet, replete with four clock dials and a large bell to toll the hour.  The fire and police departments occupied the first floor with an equipment deck for fire apparatus, horse stalls, hay storage and hose drying tower fulfilling the fire department needs.  The police department was accommodated with jail cells and an office, below all of this were two boilers capable of heating the entire building.  Access to the upper floors was gained by way of the arches at the base of the tower which opened on to a broad stairway that lead to a landing and vestibule, twenty feet square from which were accessed the city treasures' and clerks' offices.  These offices measured 18' x 30' and had double vaults.  Also off this vestibule was the council chamber, 30' x 40' and a 12' x 12' committee room.  On the floor above was the "Firemen's Room" intended for meeting or parties and measured 38' x 60' with a dais.  The total cost of the project, including the purchase of land was $30.000.        
Over the buildings' many years of service changes were made; the arched openings for the fire trucks were enlarged and other entrances were alter as well.  By 1975 the hall was decrepit and  inadequate for city use but Neenah couldn't part entirely with the old building; all but the bell tower was demolished.  It was reinforced, windows bricked up, cleaned and remains part of the charm of Neenah.


  1. Waters not only designed Neenah City Hall, but he superintended the second half of the construction as well.

    The Neenah Public Library was also located in the building.

    I have over 30 articles from the Neenah Daily Times covering the construction of city hall. Shoot me an email if you want copies.

  2. Don: I would very much enjoy reading them!