Historic McNair Block


Built 1868

Architectural Style: Italianate

National Register Listing Date: November 15, 1984

State Register Listing Date: January 1, 1989
The McNair Block (1103-1111 W 2nd Ave.) is on the National Register of Historical Places. In research, it is difficult to understand if it is named after John L. McNair, or Miles. There is little digital footprint on Mile's genealogy. He and his family (wife Elizabeth & their children) are not part of the greater McNair family tree that is in this area of Green County, as their lineage seems to part over 100 years prior to Mile's birth.

However, I wanted to make a spot on this blog as a point of research, in hopes I can trace Mile's connecting to the McNair Block considering he was a business owner and elected official in Brodhead during the time of building this historic landmark.

I have a call out to the State Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation to review correspondence, newspaper clippings, and historical information that is of public record, and will post an update upon compiling further research.

Notes about the McNair Block 

via the State Historical Society

"Lakin was the bulider. 1105-1107 (McNair Block) was later National Hall, a dry goods store, and public hall.The opera house portion of this block has been demolished. The McNair Block (1105-1107 Second Ave.) is a three story cream brick building distinguished by the same commercial Italianate detailing and proportions. The facade is divided into five bays by brick pilasters which rise from the top of the first floor to the cornice where they are joined by a string course. The round headed windows are tall proportioned and surmounted by corbelled brick hoods springing from imposts. The cream brick is unpainted, giving the building a warm color and rich texture. Although the cornice and ground floor have been altered, the building retains integrity of material and design in the upper stories, and is an architecturally significant example of the commercial Italianate style in Green County. Built between 1861 and 1871, the building served as the site of a dry goods store and a Masonic Temple in the late 19th century and remained a retail store and public hall into the 20th century."

Notes about the Exchange Square Historic District 

The McNair Block is part of the exchange Square Historic District, the following via the National Register of Historic Places gives more insight on the building and its importance.

"The development of the Exchange Square Historic District signalled more than the emergence of a regional commercial center. It also transformed the area from a primitive strip of shops into a mature community center, home to the opera houses, the fraternal lodges, and the public halls that provided education and entertainment for Brodhead residents in an era before radio, television, or rapid transportation.

The transformation, however, was not sudden. As late as 1866 the newspaper lamented that Brodhead needed 'a public park or square and a town hall.' And in 1867, C. N. Carpenter attempted to form a joint stock company to construct a public hall.

Although Carpenter's plan never materialized, within a year of his plea Brodhead had one new hall--the Monell Block)--shortly followed by the halls in the Lakin Block, the Gombar Hall, the McNair Block, and the Broughton. Suddenly, the community had ample space to convene meetings, balls, political rallies, and church events. Nor was there a shortage of groups to use the facilities. In the late nineteenth century, Brodhead had a proliferation of social and fraternal organizations, including the Masons, the Patrons of Husbandry, the Odd Fellows, the Sons of Temperance, the GAR, The Womans Relief Corp, the Knights of Phythias, and others, meeting in any one of the available downtown halls.

In addition to meetings and rallies, the halls provided space for entertainments of the day, both home-grown and professional. Local bands, musical groups, and church choirs often performed from the .buildings, , More elaborate facilities were available at Gombars Hall (later Laube Hall, and then Manager Opera House, no. 3), which provided seats for 500 and movable scenery. The Broughton Opera House could seat 700(and make room for 1000 if needed) and featured a variety of touring vaudeville shows."

Photo Credits & Sources 

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*as Lap of Legends documents ongoing research, please utilize the post "tags" for the most recent and accurate information