Interactive Historic Tour
Online & Walking Historic Tours
Explore Ripon's rich history during an interactive walking or online tour. If your choice is strolling Ripon's historic tour, bring along your iPad, PDA or cell phone and be sure to scan the QR codes at each stopping point (a point of interest or building). You'll gain access to additional information and photos.
If you'd like to tour Ripon online, here is where you begin. Simply choose the first stop, read and view images, and then move on. Or, if you're interested in listening to a podcast of the tour, click here.
We are so glad you are visiting Ripon! Don't forget to take time for coffee and breakfast; lunch and shopping; or dinner and live music! We can't wait to meet you!
Approximately 60 minutes
1. Woods Hotel/Hotel Englebright/Grand View (1872-1949)
100 Jackson Street
Erected in 1872 by Alanson Wood, Woods Hotel, later being renamed Hotel Englebright followed by Grand View Hotel, was one of the largest and finest in Fond du Lac County. The five-story building, comprised of brick and stone, had large decorative balconies overlooking the Square. It had seventy-five rooms, all of which were well furnished and well kept. Before Woods Hotel was built, the lot was occupied by the Ripon House. This two-story, square, wooden building was the first structure in Ripon, built by David Mapes in 1850. It was later called the American House and moved to the valley area along Silver Creek. Fire destroyed the hotel in February 1949, taking six lives including Ripon's beloved schoolteacher Alice Callan. Radio interviews with Ripon residents have been archived on the Downtown Ripon YouTube page.
Grand View Hotel Fire Interviews (February 1999)
Part 1 - Interview with Myrtle (Butch) McGonegal
Part 2 - Interview with Frank Farvour
Part 3 - Interview with Bob Lukoski
Part 4 - Interview with Adelaide Poblitz, Adeline McCullagh and Marnie Prellwitz
2. Ben Marcus Memorial Theatre
103 Watson Street
Built by A.W. Pettibone in 1872 for his dry goods business, later in the nineteenth century the block was split into two stores, a dry goods house and a drug store. During the turn of the century years, the dry goods store was operated by the Mattice family and the drug store by Ottmar Schallern. By 1909 the building was again combined to house the Mattice-Foster Company Department Store, one of Ripon's larger department stores. The business was in operation until 1925 when Ben Marcus established the Campus Theatre, the first of over ---- in his movie empire that stretched across the Midwest.
3. First National Bank
114 Watson Street
The former First National Bank, a massive unusually styled Art Deco commercial building constructed of Texas Limestone in 1930, is a monument to the modern image the banking industry was trying to portray to restore confidence after years of robberies by the likes of Capone and Dillinger. Unlike other Art Deco buildings, the bank has little stylized detail to break up the façade, with the exception of small coin faces set between the recessed windows. The buildings interior was ravaged by fire during the mid 1940's but quickly rebuilt to not inconvenience their customers. Inside the lobby area, two gun ports are located on the wall behind the marble teller counter where armed security guards stood watch protecting customers from the threat of robbery. Prior to the banks construction, the Ripon Opera House stood on this site until being destroyed by fire in the early 1900s.
4. Ripon Meat Market
109 W. Fond du Lac Street
Originally constructed in ____ as the Tetslaff Rempler Meat market, the building had long been rumored to provide access to an underground cave system. Ripon Main Street, Inc. and the Wisconsin Spieologicial Society began searching for the cave in June 2001, locating a man-made shaft filled with dirt. Excavation continues.
5. Pratt's Block
200-208 Watson Street
Fire played a major role in the development of this block. Two prominent buildings were destroyed by fire between 1871 and 1885, the Kellogg Hotel and the Reed building. In its 111 years of existence, Pratt's Block has housed a millinery story, tailor shop, the former First National Bank, and an U.S. Express office, to name a few. From 1905 to 1940, the corner space housed Steinbring's Busy Corner. During that time, many local children knew Mr. Steinbring as Santa, who often helped spread holiday cheer to those less fortunate. The building stood vacant for several years until being purchased in 1995 by Ripon Main Street, Inc., a non-profit economic development organization. Renovation was completed a year later, returning the building to its early 1900s appearance.
6. Barlow & Seelig Company
214 Watson Street
This address is the site of three important commercial buildings. Originally, it was the site of Ripon's first City Hall which was destroyed by fire in 1894. The McMahon Block was constructed shortly thereafter, and housed the Barlow & Seelig Hardware Store which later burnt in 1922. The Barlow & Seelig Manufacturing Company, originator of the Speed Queen washing machine, was established in 1908 and later relocated to its present Shepard Street location. After the 1922 fire, the Kohl Hardware Store rebuilt the structure. Fred W. Kohl had worked for Barlow & Seelig prior to his taking over the business and remained in operation until the 1970s.
7. Mapes House
300 Watson Street
Mapes House is possibly the oldest remaining building in downtown Ripon. The hotel was built by Timothy J. Mapes, son of David Mapes, one of the founders of Ripon. Perhaps because he was a staunch and somewhat pro Southern Democrat, the hotel was used inn 1860 as headquarters for the federal marshals sent to locate and arrest Sherman Booth, a leading Milwaukee abolitionist who was rescued from a Milwaukee jail by fellow Ripon area abolitionists. In 1918-19, the building was renamed the Hotel Leroy. During this time, the hotel was taken over by Ripon College for use as a women's dormitory and fine dining all while the Army occupied several campus residence halls to house a unit of the Student Army Training Corps during World War I. Architecturally, a fourth floor and decorative copula was added in the late 19th century. This addition was destroyed by fire in the early 1900s, as flames and ashes from the Pedrich Opera House located across the street were blown onto the roof of Mapes House.
8. Carnegie Library
400 Watson Street
This elegant and distinguished Neo-classical revival style library building was built for the community in part because of a library grant from the Carnegie Foundation. Completed in 1905, this building served as the site of the Ripon Public Library until being replaced in 1980. (NEEDS MORE)
9. Little White Schoolhouse
305 Blackburn Street
Originally the schoolhouse of District No. 2, the Little White Schoolhouse became historically significant for a meeting that took place within its walls on the evening of March 20, 1854. The people at the meeting were mostly Whigs, Free Soilers, and Democrats who believed that their perspective parties would not and could not prevent the extension of slavery to the north. They came out of the schoolhouse in agreement that one unified front was crucial to the fight against slavery and thus began the Republican Party. In 1860, the schoolhouse was converted into a private residence. The schoolhouses' final owner, Miss Perrine, put the schoolhouse up for sale in 1908. At this time, Samuel Peddrick called the community's attention to the historical importance of the building. It was decided by a committee to purchase the schoolhouse and preserve it for the benefit of the community. The building was then moved to the northwest corner of Ripon College, adjacent to West Hall. The building was moved to its present site in 19__?.