Town hall built in 1919 restored
By Jane Myhra
Old buildings often reveal the true history of an area.
The same holds true for the original Helvetia Town Hall, built in 1919 by Chet Krause’s father, Carl.
It served as the community meeting place until 1993.
The building was moved to the Iola Historical Society’s village and museum grounds in 2002.
Since that time, much of the interior has been restored to its original decor.
According to Lee Halverson, the chairs and benches are the same ones that were in the building. The old iron stove remains, though it is no longer used.
The front door looks like it is riddled with gunshots. But the holes are from multiple notices being stapled to the door.
“One whole Saturday I picked staples out of that door,” said IHS member Sharon Peterson.
Scott Bestul recalled the task of moving the building to its present location at the IHS complex.
The first estimate for relocating the structure included the cost of removing all of the overhead wires along the route.
Bestul took on the job of removing the steel roof and the rafters to decrease the building’s height.
He used a chain saw to cut the roof into sections to make it easier to move.
“I burned up a lot of chains cutting through that steel roofing,” he said.
After the roof, rafters and part of the chimney were removed, Bestul tipped down the gables. The main part of the building remained intact.
According to Bestul, the movers did all of the excavating, jacking up of the structure and the actual moving.
There were two wires that needed to be lifted as the building passed underneath them.
It took about two hours for the building to travel from County Trunk GG to County Trunk G and then on County Trunk J before it arrived on Main Street in Iola shortly before 8 a.m. on June 20, 2002.
The town hall was set on its new foundation and Bestul tipped the gable ends back up, then reset the porch and the chimneys and did some minor touchups.
“The chimney doesn’t run all the way through the roof anymore,” he said.
Bob and Elaine Crase touched up the floor. “And it has held up well,” said Elaine.
According to Cliff Mishler, Krause Publications guaranteed a $20,000 loan to cover the cost of moving the Helvetia Town Hall. He said that loan later became a donation.
History of Helvetia
The town of Helvetia was named by Swiss immigrants who settled the area in the 1850s. Helvetia is the Germanic identification of Switzerland.
The Celtic Helvetians lived in Switzerland for 18 centuries before establishing the Helvetian Republic in 1798. The identity Helvetische Republik first appeared on coins in 1850.
When the township was formed on April 2, 1861, it was known at Helvetia Republic Township and included what is now the town of Wyoming.
Through the first 23 years, the township’s meetings were held in homes. Much of the town board’s business concerned surveying, building and maintaining roads and setting aside land for schools, churches and cemeteries.
For the next 35 years, the meetings were held in schools.
At the annual meeting on April 1, 1919, Carl Krause was voted chairman of a committee charged with building a town hall. The committee also included John Jenson and Lewis Stevens.
The town hall was built during the summer and fall of 1919, with the first annual meeting and elections held there on April 6, 1920. It was also used for school programs, dances, family gatherings, card parties and other events.
Around 1940, the wood shingle roof was replaced with a steel roof and a front porch was added.
In 1993, the town board authorized the building of a new town hall. Elections were last held in the original town hall in November of 1993.
In September of 1996, the Iola Historical Society purchased the vacated town hall for $1,000.