Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record

206-210 W MAIN ST

Architecture and History Inventory
206-210 W MAIN ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:William Dennis Block; West Ave. House; New Belvidere
Other Name:Plate Forms Printing; Bergin Bros, Plumbing
Contributing: Yes
Reference Number:7183
Location (Address):206-210 W MAIN ST
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1855
Survey Date:1986
Historic Use:retail building
Architectural Style:Italianate
Structural System:
Wall Material:Cream Brick
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: Main Street Commercial Historic District
National Register Listing Date:6/2/1989 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:
National Register Multiple Property Name:
Additional Information:This building is the William Dennis Block, a three-storefront block that housed retail businesses and an historic hotel.

The Dennis Block was built by pioneer businessman and financier William Dennis. During the early years of the city, council offices and city meeting hall was located in this building. Later, the 206 section of the building held the lobby for the West Avenue House, later the New Belvidere Hotel and the Grand Hotel, one of the historic hotels of Watertown. The hotel was located here between 1885 and at least 1930. The upstairs area of this part of the building and the western two sections was the long-time hotel.

This building is significant for local history under National Register criterion A because it is the historic Dennis block, home to early city government offices and later part of the long-time hotel on Main Street, the West Avenue House. It is also significant because it housed the shoe store of Leo Ruesch, a continuation of a pioneer business begun in 1846.

William Dennis was a significant early pioneer. His three-storefront brick block, constructed in the mid 1850s, was a landmark structure in the commercial district and an appropriate place to hold city government functions during the early years of Watertown. Around 1874 the city government was moved to 101 E. Main, where it was located until the city hall was built in 1885. Because this was an early location, it is a significant structure in local government history.

But this block is also significant as the long-time location of the West Avenue House. Not a pioneer hotel, it was in operation for over 50 years. The hotel operation helps this building contribute to the commercial significance of the Main Street Commercial historic district.

During Watertown's early years of city government, council offices and meeting rooms were in this building. Around 1874 these offices were moved to 101 E. Main. Slightly later, the upper floors of this entire block were used for the West Avenue House, a long-time hotel that was also known as the New Belvidere Hotel and the Grand Hotel. Located in the storefronts of the first floor of this building were the meat market, a grocery, and between 1895 and at least 1930, the Leo Ruesch shoe store. Ruesch's shoe store was a continuation of one begun in 1846 by Fredolin Ruesch on North Water St. In 1895, Leo Ruesch moved the business here.

Constructed of Watertown brick, the west six bays of this building were built in 1855 while the east four bays were added a year later. Characterized by a denticulated brick cornice, the Dennis Block is further characterized by round, arched, articulated window heads over arched window sashes placed in ten, recessed, two-story bays that vertically divide the facade. An iron storefront featuring square iron columns with Corinthian capitals remains in the center bay while the east and west storefronts have been completely altered. Some original windows remain on the upper floor of the center three bays. Metal replacement windows have been added to the second story.

Built for William Dennis, a prominent politician and bank president, the dennis block was divided into three properties as early as 1866 when the east section was sold to Michael Quigley for his furniture factory. The west section was sold to F. O'Rourke in 1867, which he used for his grocery store and dwelling. The center three bays remained the property of William Dennis until his death in 1883.

The Dennis Block is significant under Criterion C as an example of the early Italianate commercial building in the city of Watertown. One of the five best examples of the Italianate influence in the proposed Main Street Commercial Historic District, the Dennis Block exhibits the decorative window heads, compartmentalized facade and cornice associated with the Italianate style in a rather vernacular interpretation of the style. Other good examples of the Italianate style in the proposed Main Street Historic District include the Misegades Wagon Works at 202 North Water (63-4), the buildings at 103-105 E. Main (62-6), 413 E. Main (65-2), and 208-210 W. Main (64-31).

The Dennis Block housed the bank of Watertown of which Dennis was president from 1858 to 1865. The Dennis Block was divided into three parcels in 1867-1868.
Bibliographic References:(A) Tax Recods, City of Watertown, 1860-1910, Area Research Center, Library, University of Whitewater. (B) P. McCabe, Map of the City of Watertown, Jefferson County, 1857, Watertown Public Library. (C) Watertown Democrat Dec. 14, 1855. (D) "Revised Tariff of Rates for Watertown, Wisconsin," National Board of Fire Underwriters, 1876. (E) C. Hugo Jacobi, "Reminiscences of Early Days in Watertown," Watertown Daily Times, March 10, 1924.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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