News: Neillsville - Local Registry of Historic Places Addition (2021)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Erpenbach, Roehl, Counsell, Clough, Murphy, Wachsmuth, Harnisch, Huntzicker, Ketel, Meyer, Schultz, Friemoth, Sommerfield, Dederich

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 10/06/2021

Merchants Hotel Added to Local Registry of Historic Places (2021)

Neillsville’s Merchants Hotel, also known as the Olde Hotel, at 105 W. 7th Street has had its historical significance officially recognized by the city. The city council unanimously approved placing the hotel property on the City Of Neillsville Local Registry of Historic Places at its meeting Sept. 28.

The move came at the recommendation of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. The commission met on Sept. 15 and completed a property evaluation of significance form and nomination of property.

Historic Preservation Commission chairperson Natalie Erpenbach attended the Sept. 28 meeting and advocated for the building being added to the registry.

According to unofficial meeting minutes provided by city clerk-treasurer Rex Roehl, Erpenbach stated that the process to have the building added to the local registry was started by a former owner and then withdrawn.

She also stated that “the historical significance has not changed; it has a deep history, including the move across O’Neill Creek from the north side. An addition to the west was added. It does need work [but] the listing gives the city options. The goal and charge of the Historic Preservation Commission is to protect and preserved historical properties. The building could be sold and demolished without our input. Listing opens the possibility of state and national funding, if pursed.

Also according to the minutes, “Council member Julie Counsell stated by law you cannot stop a demolition; it still can be torn down. Why not proceed with state/national listing – that’s where the money is. Erpenbach stated that the owners could continue. Council member [Dan} Clough stated the listing is another tool in the toolbox-another designation to help save the building.”

According to the minutes Mayor Diane Murphy inquired about how quickly a person would have to make updates to the building if they bought it. City attorney Bonnie Wachsmuth stated that if the building is unsafe, the city has to push the issue, because it is not within the Historic Preservation Commission’s realm to do so. She said that the historic registry designation means the owners have to preserve the outside façade, but it has nothing to do with the inside of the building. Counsell stated that there are tax credits and money for the inside too.

A few other questions were raised.

According to the minutes, “Wachsmuth asked if the owners are behind this designation. Erpenbach stated they were for it in the past and are not opposed… Murphy asked if the city’s hand are tied if someone buys it and it sits for two years, [and] then the city makes the hard decision to tear it down. City attorney Wachsmuth stated [they’re] not tied, but [it would be] more difficult.”

Erpenbach also clarified that the Historic Preservation Commission could still issue a “demolition certificate.” However, the city council would have the final say.

“Council member Harnisch stated that the Historic Preservation Commission has talked on this detail for several meetings, and a plaque on the building may help the sale or find an investor,” the minutes also stated.

The council voted unanimously to place the Merchants Hotel on the registry of historic places.

According to the online Wisconsin Historical Society Architecture and History Inventory, the hotel was built in 1881 by George Huntzicker. It was originally called the Northside Hotel and clad in clapboard. It was at 1002 Hewett Street. In 1887, the hotel was moved to its current location and veneered in brick by Herman and William Ketel.

The building has sat vacant for most of 2021 after being deemed “unsafe for occupancy due to fire hazard.” Neillsville Fire Chief Matt Meyer posted an evacuation order on Jan. 11. The order was based on the findings of semi-annual building inspections conducted in June 2020 and December 2020, and one final inspection Jan. 11 conducted by city fire inspector Robert Schultz, Meyer, director of public works Luke Friemoth, Wisconsin fire prevention coordinator Rick Sommerfield and state building inspector Lucas Dederich.

Editor Valorie Brecht contributed to this report.



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