Danes Hall is back
Restoration celebrated at open house
By Angie Landsverk
Danes Hall has returned to its roots.
“A toast to Waupaca,” Michael Koehler said as he raised a glass of red wine. “Danes Hall is back. Enjoy.”
He made the remarks on Friday, March 22, during an open house there.
Those involved in the building’s restoration were invited to the event, as well as downtown business owners and members of arts organizations.
Koehler, along with brothers Jack and Joe, formed Danes Home LLC in early 2017.
That followed the August 2016 purchase of the building, which is located at 301 N. Main St.
Their family has a connection to the building.
Their great-uncle, Peter Holst, was the treasurer of the Danes Home Society from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
Built into a granite ledge in 1894, Danes Hall was organized for social and literary purposes.
“My ancestors came here from Denmark. They came here with their culture and built things,” Koehler said. “We have to take what they brought here and continue to add on to it.”
The Koehler family wants Danes Hall to be for the whole community.
“The community has kind of rallied behind us,” he said.
When the building was constructed, its design included the ballroom above the meeting space, with a cafe in the lowest level, he said.
Koehler said that allowed for activities to take place there throughout the day.
That concept continues with the restoration. A cafe is eventually going to be located in the basement.
“Every level is going to be usable for all kinds of things,” said Terry Martin, the architect for the project.
The uses are limitless, he said.
Numerous events are already planned in the space.
Waupaca’s annual art show moves to Danes Hall this year, and opens there next month.
Arts on the Square is hosting its jazz performances there in August, followed by the Bach Festival in October.
“We have had many young women come here and want to have their weddings here,” Koehler said. “Three weddings are booked already.”
Martin described the restoration of the building as a joint effort.
Greenwood Project Management headed it.
Tom Hoffman owns the business and said, “The best way to put it is I’ve been doing construction for 35 to 40 years. There’s always a project that defines what it’s all about. We were honored to be part of this project.”
He said it was great to work with the Koehler family to restore Danes Hall and bring it back to its grandeur.
Koehler said it was important to his family and the people of Waupaca to keep everything to the character of the building.
The Steinway grand piano in the ballroom was built in 1896, Koehler said.
The furniture in the meeting space is Danish carved.
The building has new lighting, electric, plumbing and HVAC, as well as an elevator, Martin said.
Danes Hall is on the state and national registers of historic places, and its renovation qualified for state and federal tax credits, Martin said.
A large part of his job was making sure the historic aspects were treated appropriately.
The only thing pending, he said, is final approval of the tax credits.
Martin had to submit pictures to the state historical society and National Park Service ahead of time and now has to take the same pictures, showing the results.
“I feel they will be ecstatic with what we did,” he said.
Martin said the renovation of Danes Hall turned out better than he imagined.
“When I first came to Waupaca in 1979, at that point I wanted to see this building preserved,” he said. “Forty years later, I’m so glad I was able to be part of it.”
Brennan Kane, Waupaca’s director of community and economic development, said the city is fortunate to have the Koehler family make this investment in the city.
They are creating a public and community space, he said.
“It will bring a lot of different people to the area. From the city standpoint, we cannot thank the Koehler family enough,” Kane said. “It’s beautiful to bring history back.”