We continue taking a look at Clark County in our latest County by County series. Zach Prelutsky explains the unique history behind the Wisconsin Pavilion.
Driving down Highway 10 in Neillsville, there’s a building off the side of the road that usually catches people’s attention.
The Wisconsin Pavilion that was at the 1964 New York World’s Fair stands in Neillsville, Wis.
“There’s some days where you don’t realize what you’re stepping into each day and then it kind of takes a conversation with a tourist or a passerby to remind you yeah this isn’t everywhere. So I think sometimes it’s easy to take it for granted, but then it’s nice to speak to people who don’t see it everyday,“ said Wisconsin Pavilion Co-Owner Logan Grap.
The building, known as the Wisconsin Pavilion, has a deep history that started halfway across the country.
During the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York each state sent over a structure to be on the fairgrounds.
This is what Wisconsin provided.
“Once the fair was over, the state of Wisconsin was going to demolish it and then a man by the name of Ivan Wilcox purchased the building from the state of Wisconsin. He was going to take it back to his hometown of Boscobel, have it rebuilt there,“ explains Logan. “My understanding is he couldn’t get the funding to do so and that’s when Wisconsin Central Broadcasting purchased the building.“
Today the Pavilion is home to three radio stations as well as a Cheese, Wine and Gift shop.
“We try to keep it as original as we possibly can. You know that comes with more of an expense because it is such an old building, but we take pride in the fact that it’s still the original building from the World’s Fair,“ said Kaleb Grap, another Co-Owner.
At first the original design for what Wisconsin would bring to the World’s Fair was scrapped because it was over budget.
Architects from around the state quickly worked to create a lower cost alternative.
“I do know that it was built to be ahead of its time. A lot of people when they come they see it as kind of like a spaceship and ahead of its design. You know they refer to The Jetsons TV show, kind of what it looks like,“ said Kaleb.
But the Pavilion is not the only eye-catching piece on the grounds.
It is also home to Chatty Belle, the World’s Largest Talking Cow.
“That was initiated from the radio station and they actually held a contest to name the cow with the local schools. The winning name received 100 pounds of Grassland butter,“ said Logan.
While the Grap’s say there are more efficient buildings to house both radio stations and a Cheese and Wine shop in, the operations wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t at the Pavilion.
“You’ll have some people come in who say they were at the building when it was at the New York World’s Fair or Chatty Belle will grab some passerby’s attention and they’ll stop in and spend some time exploring the building and checking it all out. So it’s a mix of people who seek it out as a destination or people who just stumble across it,“ said Logan.
In 2012, the Wisconsin Pavilion was added to the National Register of Historic Places.