Interim director Dan Finley
talks about past and current plans for the original
courtroom in the Waukesha County Museum. Original plans
would have cost more than a million dollars. Finley is
proposing opening the space, but leaving it unrestored
except for health and safety issues, much like Turner Hall
WAUKESHA - The 4,200-square-foot courtroom in the
Waukesha County Museum will be offered as a rental for
gatherings such as weddings, parties and community
events, Interim Museum President and CEO Dan Finley said
will be a huge part of the museum’s financial future to
create an income-generating banquet facility,” Finley
Officials of the cash-strapped museum are seeking ways
to increase revenue, following the cut by Waukesha
County of $150,000 for the museum’s annual operating
museum has the courtroom because the building was once
used as the Waukesha County Courthouse.
museum currently is talking with Chef Jack Fisher about
catering events at the museum’s courtroom, Finley said.
A vintage safe and circular
staircase are two of the things visitors to the Waukesha
County Museum will be able to see for the first time once
the museum's offices are moved from the former judicial
offices on the third floor. Interim director Dan Finley is
moving the offices to open the most original space in the
building to visitors and exhibits.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
Jack is very excited about this new use for the old
courtroom,” Finley said. “There aren’t many rooms this
size in Waukesha.”
lack of large rooms has hurt banquet and wedding
business in Waukesha, Fisher has said in the past.
contends he has sent wedding business to Milwaukee due
to a lack of large local avenues. Fisher has renovated
the downtown Rotunda, owned by Berg Management, where he
caters weddings and other galas.
could not be reached for immediate comment.
said the courtroom is bigger than the Rotunda. Opening
it for public use would add another large gathering spot
to Waukesha’s landscape.
courtroom’s aged appearance with peeling paint and
hole-pocked ceilings and walls will remain the same,
because the museum doesn’t have the estimated $2 million
said the courtroom is similar to Milwaukee’s Turner Hall
Ballroom. Following decades of neglect that included a
fire, the ballroom was opened for concerts and other
uses without any prior renovations.
Damage from water leaks and
installation of a drop ceiling mar the formerly ornate
ceiling in the Waukesha County Museum’s courtroom.
said the ballroom attracts paying users, despite its
scars, and the courtroom has the same potential. Early
estimates place potential annual revenue from courtroom
rentals at about $100,000, he said.
courtroom has beautiful lighting from its nine tall
windows along the east wall, an alcove of three tall
windows and three windows of the same size on its south
also has heating vents protruding from the walls, water
damage and cracked ceiling tiles.
will be the dilapidated funkiness of the room that will
make it attractive,” Finley said.
courtroom will be safe and clean when it opens, Finley
said. Chef Jack has offered to build a warming kitchen
adjacent to the courtroom for catering brought in from
his kitchen in downtown Waukesha, he said.
money comes into the museum from the venture, some of it
will be set aside for renovations, he said.
An old rendering of a proposed
restoration of the courtroom in the Waukesha County Museum.
could not provide a time frame as to when the courtroom
would open for public use, but a related project is
moving along quickly.
Museum officials this weekend are vacating their
historic third-floor offices to clear the way for a new
exhibit that highlights spaces that were once a jury
room, a judge’s chamber, a law library and a clerk of
courts office. Period furniture will be exhibited in the
former legal offices.
offices were the nicest places of what this building
was,” Finley said. “Why take one of the museum’s best
artifacts and put it behind closed doors?”