Danes Hall rededicated
Looking back, looking forward
By Angie Landsverk
When Michael Koehler saw a for sale sign in front of Danes Hall several years ago, he felt the building’s history was for sale.
“Without thinking, I bought it,” he said.
That was in August 2016.
The first question his wife asked was, “What are you going to do with it?”
Koehler, along with brothers Jack and Joe, formed Danes Home LLC in early 2017.
They saw it as a place to celebrate their heritage.
Their great-uncle, Peter Holst, was the treasurer of the Danes Home Society from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
For six months, the Koehler family worked with an architect and contractor to develop plans for the building.
The restoration of Danes Hall of Waupaca was celebrated last spring during an open house.
With three levels, the space may be used in a variety of ways, including for meetings, weddings and more.
“The building, to me, seemed to be a little happier,” Koehler said of the completed project. “Five generations later, we found a new home for us.”
He made that comment Saturday, Nov. 30, during the hall’s 125-year rededication.
The original dedication took place on Nov. 29, 1894.
Koehler said the building was a tremendous accomplishment for the Danes Home Society.
It served as the center for their new American life, he said.
“It’s hard to imagine a young group of immigrants pulling together the dreams for this new building,” Koehler said.
Over the next 50 years, young immigrant men went there to learn. Many met their wives at dances, he said.
By March of 1945, the society’s membership had dwindled to just a small number, Koehler said.
“They had truly immigrated into America by then,” he said. “What it had been built for was accomplished.”
Dedicated to future generations
On Nov. 30, Koehler dedicated Danes Hall to their ancestors, the community who welcomed them here, the state and nation and to the Nordic nations.
“Danish or not, Danes Hall belongs to you,” he said. “You all made today possible. We made a place where history and hospitality come together.”
Koehler dedicated it to future generations of Americans.
Mayor Brian Smith said he remembers as a child the “stories I heard from my father’s grandparents who came here from Denmark.”
Through the years, he looked at the building and knew there was potential in it.
Smith thanked the Koehler family for investing in the future of North Main Street.
City Administrator Aaron Jenson remembers when the building was an antique store.
Main Street is one of the city’s assets, he said.
“Anyone would die to have a project like this completed in their downtown,” Jenson said. “I’m excited about the future. I can’t help but think of all the memories that will be created in the next 100 years.”
State Rep. Kevin Petersen also spoked during the rededication.
“We’re all part of Danes Hall,” he said. “We’re all part of this building.”
Petersen said as much as Waupaca has changed in the last 125 years, much has remained the same.
He noted the number of historic properties in the city and that history is cherished.
Danes Hall has stood at Main and Granite streets since 1894, Petersen said.
He said it is a “bridge to Waupaca’s past and I also believe a bridge to Waupaca’s future.”
William Clarke, general manager of Danes Hall, said the building’s history is honored as they pledge to add to it.
“It sat here waiting and waiting,” Koehler said. “It stood here waiting for you and me, for the arts community.”