It was last May that the old, bronze light went back up in the lobby area on the second floor of the Winnebago County Courthouse. It had been nearly two years since we re-acquired the old chandelier that was removed sometime in the 1970s. I spent several days working on that light to get it ready to be presentable. So I was really excited to see this beautiful piece of art come home.
Shortly after the chandelier went back up, the Oshkosh Herald did a feature story and fixture’s journey home. Within a few days, I received a phone call from a local guy who said he saw the article about the light in the paper and had some other courthouse originals. You can imagine how excited I was to hear him say that! We chit-chatted awhile, and he invited me over to the building he stored them in.
A few days went by before I met up with him at his storage building. The minute I saw them I knew exactly where the fixtures had come from in the courthouse. They were two of many bronze fixtures that once hung in the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors room on the fourth floor. These were in beautiful condition. He said that he acquired them from a guy that did electrical work in the courthouse at the time. I asked him what he planned to do with them, and he said he would like to see them back where they belong. I couldn’t have agreed more!
Some time went by before I was able to speak to the man again. I was on leave from work for the birth of my son, and I was busy with visiting family, going back to work, and getting the hang of becoming a new parent. In that time he had offered the lights back to Winnebago County as a donation. Unfortunately, that did not work out. I serve on the board of directors of the Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society, so I asked him if he would be willing to donate them to our organization to add to our collection. I thought we might even be able to display them somehow in our museum. He agreed and said that would be a great idea.
A week after we talked and arranged for the lights to be donated to the historical society, the man passed away. I was fortunate to have made contact with his daughter–thanks to the president of our historical society. I explained that her father and I had spoken about the significance of the light fixtures and that he had planned to donate them to our organization. She was more than happy to fulfill her father’s wishes, and she ended up donating some other items from another historic landmark in Oshkosh.
The lights are in storage waiting to be cleaned, rewired, and lit once more! I hope by sharing telling the story of our beautiful courthouse more of these misplaced fixtures will surface again. I have talked to folks who used to work in our courthouse long ago, and they remember some of these lights and the layout of the building before many of the renovations in the last forty years.
Have you been to our courthouse? What are some of your favorite features? Are you a former employee at the courthouse? What are some of the changes that have happened in your time there? Do you remember any of the beautiful bronze features that were removed? Share your stories below.