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The Historic Oneida County Courthouse

Katie Thoresen

When the town of Rhinelander was platted in 1882, Oneida County did not yet exist. Being a part of Lincoln County, all of its business was handled at the Courthouse in Merrill. But the community leaders and engineers that laid out Rhinelander’s streets already had a new county in mind. On the first Rhinelander plat map, a square bordered by Rives, Brown, Frederick, and Stevens Street was slated to be the site of Oneida County’s first courthouse.

When Oneida County was formed in 1887, a small potato field at the terminus of Davenport Street was chosen instead. In that year, a two-story frame courthouse was built on the square to host the government business of the newly formed Oneida County. But after a fire in 1905 devastated the north side of Rhinelander, a more suitable, fireproof building was proposed to store the county’s important documents and handle its affairs.

The new courthouse was completed in 1909. Built largely of limestone and marble, it is adorned with a beautiful ornate stained-glass dome. The structure was designed by Manitowoc architect Christian H. Tegan, who also designed the Manitowoc County Courthouse.

The courthouse features not one but two domes – an outer green dome that can be seen for miles, and an inner more colorful dome. The glasswork was completed by Schueler and Mueller of Chicago for a cost of $600 in 1908.

In the 1960s, the dome was in need of repair. County leaders discussed removing the dome altogether. Thankfully it was saved and retains its historic beauty to date.

Recently,a new self-guided Oneida County Courthouse walking tour was installed, allowing people to learn more about the building and its history. Visitors only need step up to its main entrance to find printed pamphlets, and placards with QR codes that bring up an audio tour of the building top to bottom.

There is a lot of history you can learn about at the Oneida County Courthouse if you visit. Seeing the interior dome is worth a stop by itself. It is open weekdays from 8:00am to 4:30pm.

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Kerry Bloedorn joined WXPR in 2022 as the host of A Northwoods Moment in History. A local historian, Director of Pioneer Park Historical Complex for the City of Rhinelander and writer for The New North Magazine, he loves digging into the past and sharing his passion for history with the Northwoods community.
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