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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Cleveland's Hall (T. Heggland photo, 2008)

Cleveland's Hall (T. Heggland photo, 2008)

Cleveland's Hall (T. Heggland photo, 2008)

Cleveland's Hall, interior of hall (T. Heggland photo, 2008)

Cleveland’s Hall and Blacksmith Shop
N7302 County Trunk Highway X, Town of Brooklyn, Green County
Date of construction: 1873

Located in the former village of Attica at the intersection of County Highway’s X and C, this highly intact and recently restored two-story stone building was probably built in 1873 as a blacksmith shop for David C. Heathman (ca.1818-18??). In 1883, Benjamin K. Cleveland (1851-1940) purchased the building. Cleveland, a blacksmith and a native of Norway, took over the operation of the shop, which occupied the first story of this building. In the same year he had the walls of the unused second story plastered and then opened the room for the use of the public as a dance hall and performance space called Cleveland’s Hall. Cleveland continued to operate both spaces in this manner until 1899, when he sold the building to the local lodge of the Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal order. Cleveland moved to the nearby village of Albany and the first story of the blacksmith shop was converted to other usages. The Woodmen, however, used the second story as their lodge hall and they continued Cleveland’s tradition of offering it to the general public for others uses.

Blacksmith shops were typically among the first commercial enterprises established in a new community because the enterprise they housed was one of enormous importance in the rural life of nineteenth century Wisconsin. In the days before advances in transportation and manufacturing gave farmers ready access to mass manufactured tools and agricultural implements, the local blacksmith played a critical role in keeping the farmer supplied with the tools of his trade. Cleveland’s blacksmith shop would therefore have been an important center of commercial life in a small village like Attica in a day when the blacksmith's forge was an absolute necessity for a rural community. In addition, the shop would also have been an important gathering place for those seeking the blacksmith's services and for those who were meeting with persons waiting for these services. Perhaps Cleveland saw an opportunity to derive some income from the second story of his building, or perhaps he just saw a need for such a space in a community which otherwise had practically no other public spaces. Whatever his motivation, the second story of the Hall became the principal place in Attica for public celebrations.

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