HISTORY OF NEILLSVILLE
The Neillsville Historic Preservation Commission welcomes you to Neillsville's Historic Walking Tour. We are proud of the historic heritage of our community and support private property owners in their preservation efforts. Neillsville offers a myriad of architectural styles from Gothic Revival to the Arts and Crafts era and the Prairie and Bungalow styles.
At the time of the arrival of James O'Neill, Clark County was an uninhabited wilderness. O'Neill and his party came overland from Black River Falls in an oxen drawn wagon. They arduously cut the first road into the county. In 1845 O'Neill's party arrived in the area that would be named in his honor. Vast stretches of virgin pine forests lined a great waterway, the Black River. This waterway would become the highway, which would float their logs to the mills of La Crosse and Onalaska.
By 1850, 50 acres of land had been cleared by O'Neill. The county seat was awarded to Neillsville in 1853 after a colorful election. In April of 1855, O'Neill appropriated four acres of land for the village and had it platted by A. Boardman. Neillsville's population was less than 250 people in 1860. The logging industry and the infrastructure needed to support that industry, skyrocketed the population to 2,000 in 1890 and to 3,000 by 1900. Substantial brick structures continued to be built each year in the downtown commercial district. Prosperous lumber barons and merchants were commissioning architects to design commodious residences, some with ballrooms, many with great ornamentation that reflected their newfound successes.
The railroad arrived in 1887 when the Omaha Company built a railroad bridge across the Black River and extended their line into Neillsville and eventually on to Marshfield. The railroad would bring three passenger trains a day through Neillsville and would assist in Neillsville's transition from lumbering to industry. By the turn of the century Neillsville had a large furniture factory, condensary, canning factory, brewery, creamery, cheese factory, cigar factory, flour mill, spoke and hub factory, fence post factory, planning mill, and wagon factory. Neillsville was undertaking the building of a new high school, improving their street surfaces, and petitioning for a Carnegie Library. Hotels, restaurants and merchants prospered. Home construction continued as these new entrepreneurs were eager for newer stylish forms of architecture.
Their homes and business structures display innovative design, sophistication and elegance. All of Neillsville's historical buildings represent a collection of work of many notable architects, many with listings in the National Register of Historic Places. These structures represented the hopes and dreams of peoples who are remembered by us with gratitude for their fortitude and guidance. They serve as a constant reminder of our rich heritage, promoting community spirit and pride in our past, present and future.
Welcome to “OUR TOWN”, NEILLSVILLE. Where “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” you are always welcome.