The old city hall landmark is battered and bruised from the July 10, 2018 downtown Sun Prairie natural gas explosion but its revival is on the horizon.
The 1895 structure is the focal point of the East Main Street and Bristol Street intersection as it towers over the empty space where nearby Barr House and other businesses were destroyed in the blast.
Repairing the historic downtown building has been slow, but with the help of federal and state governments, it could be open by next spring. Owner David Wilder said when rehabilitation work is done, the old city hall will be a grand historical feature of downtown.
“The building will look as close to how it looked in 1895,” Wilder said. “I tell people to look at the old pictures and that is what it is going to look like.”
Old City Hall sits right in the middle of the newly designated National Registry of Historic Places blocks. Wilder said the rehabilitation will get a boost from state and federal tax credits that are now possible with historical status.
On July 10, 2018, the 100 E. Main St. building suffered significant structural damage to the roof, and doors and windows blew apart. Wilder wants to bring the city hall back to its original glory with new windows and possibly restoring the old bell tower and fire station doors.
Wilder expects to have architect construction drawings by the end of July so he can get bids to determine realistic renovation costs. Federal and state tax credits could pay up to 40 percent of the renovations if approved, he said.
The plan is to have retail space on the first floor, as before.
Former business tenants Running Diva Mom and The Chocolate Caper were both closed after the blast. The personal trainer and running coach business owned by Jamie Adcock relocated to West Main Street. The Chocolate Caper is committed to re-opening in the old city hall building once renovations are complete, Wilder said.
The renovation will include apartments on the second floor.
After more than a year’s delay, Wilder is ready for construction work to move forward.
“Hopefully, there will be some construction activity starting this fall and we can get as much done before winter,” Wilder said. “But it won’t be until next spring before we can open the building.”
Wilder was pushing for the National Register of Historic Places designation for the 100 and 200 blocks of Main Street even before the July 10 explosion, advocating for the boost it would bring to downtown.
The National Register of Historic Places is a federal list of districts that have a significant concentration of American architecture, culture and other factors that show the history of the community.
“Sun Prairie has a great downtown and it acts as a hub with all the development that is going on in the rest of the city,” Wilder said. “It’s a good thing to preserve the historical character of downtown.”
His sense that others feel the same about restoring the old city hall.
“We feel an obligation to not just reopen the building but bring it back to the way it looked before so it can once again be the landmark that it was for the city.”