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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Prairie du Chien City Hall (M. Ihm photo, 2002)

Prairie du Chien City Hall
207 West Blackhawk Avenue, Prairie du Chien, Crawford County
Date of construction: 1894

For over 100 years this building was the seat of Prairie du Chien city government. Built as an all-purpose municipal building, for many years it housed the mayor's office, and the police and fire departments. At one time, the western half of the building held a fire truck, with a jail cell at the back. In 1912 the city created the first public library in space shared with the city council on the east side of the building.

Like many small communities, Prairie du Chien outfitted its city hall with a large public auditorium, in response to public demand for wholesome and cultured entertainment. This second floor hall was the location of annual balls and of performances by visiting troupes. It was popularly known as the Grand Opera House and the City Opera House. The current building rests on the foundation of the old Opera House, constructed about 1870 and destroyed by fire in 1893. The speedy replacement of the popular entertainment hall indicates the community┐s support for such a public facility and the need to provide a location for visiting performers. In 1929, the city leased the upstairs hall to the American Legion. The Legion held its meetings in the building and hosted roller-skating and dancing in the hall through the 1950s.

The building's long use and changing civic functions resulted in alterations, including the filling of the upper floor windows with glass block and changes to the ground floor. Originally, a decorative, open belfry capped the building. With the move of city offices from the building in 2002/2003, a restoration and adaptive reuse of the building as hotel and retail space is anticipated. Because of the repair work, the building is currently not open to the public.

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