Old Town Hall History

All phases of local government were carried on here mainly in the "clerk's room" that contained the vault for storing town records.  Court cases were heard here, and often the room became a morgue for victims of drowning, homicides and suidides.  The town hall was a convenient place for the coroner to come after his arrival by train from the county seat.   The justice of the peace, too, performed marriages here; and the old hall served as a church and school while new buildings were under construction.  It had a two-celled jail in the rear that served mainly to house rowdies and vagrants.  During World War II, the jail was removed and was sold for scrap iron.  Since then the county jail at Phillips has played host to undesirable citizens.

The Old Town Hall was the scene of political rallies, elections and attendant celebrations.  Beginning at the time of McKinley's terms, celebrations were held after presidential returns were in, regardless of who won.  A roasted steer, barbecued in the foundation pit of what is now the Fifield Cash Store, was transported to the social hall where a huge camp cook, Herman Diner by name, who had attended the huge roast, supervised the election banquet.  The roast was placed on a large table, sliced and served to all with homemake bread and butter furnished by the women.  There was coffee, of course, and milk for the children.

The Old Town Hall, with "council chambers" below and its upstairs social hall (known as the "Opera House" in early days) was a true community building servicing nearby communities, churches, school and organizations.  Each church had a kitchen, and it was here that the famous Congregational Ladies' Election Day Dinners began: and where Catholic ladies held their well-known St. Patrick's Day bazaars.  All water for cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning was carried from the Badger Hotel a block away where there was always a large metal barrel of boiling water heated by pipes from a big hotel cook stove.  Connunity life was closely knit, and the usual good turnouts for these events made the labor seem light indeed.

Veterans of Foreign Wars met here.  Red Cross training and the knitting sessions, which produced the famous khaki army sweaters, were held in downstairs rooms.  The hall was the headquarters of the Modern Woodmen, and they held their fancy dress balls upstairs in the social hall.  Orchestras up to 15 pieces were engaged for formal affairs, and a sergeant-at-arms was stationed at the upper and lower entrances to make sure no rowdies marred the stateliness of these occasions.

The walls of the social hall still echo with the delighted laughter from home talent plays, the buzz of excitement from the magic of the Christmas program with its huge tree, the solemnity of graduation night.  The old stage curtain with its center scenery surrounded by hometown advertising rolled down countless times on lecture courses, traveling shows, and the famed  medicine shows that dispensed their cure-all elixirs.  Even the Mikado was produced here in 1906 with local talent from Fifield and Park Falls.

Somehow this old hall has defied time and usage, and stands proudly to reflect the life of another day...a moment to those now gone that felt the full impact of its gracious reign.  So at the crossroads of yesterday and today, it is hoped that this unique old landmark will pick up the frayed threads of a bygone era and remain to preserve, at least in part, something of our heritage.