Recollections: At the corner of Third and Chestnut
By Thom Gerretsen
Every so often, I’ll see somebody with whom I worked at the Marshfield News-Herald – and we’ll chew over the “good old days” when a daily newspaper was once produced on what’s now blades of grass, a stage and new concrete parking spaces. The paper was one of four special institutions that once graced a single intersection in downtown Marshfield at West Third Street and South Chestnut Avenue.
It used to be one of the most influential places in town. Children and young adults learned about the world. Families and friends honored their dead. The community learned so much about itself. And folks gathered to pray for it all.
Now, it’s perhaps the city’s most creative intersection, thanks mainly to the Chestnut Center for the Arts. Since 2003, the non-profit community center has hosted numerous performances, visual art exhibits, workshops and classes, and special events. Artists and musicians also have studios there. It’s on the northwest corner of Third-and-Chestnut where First Presbyterian Church was located when I moved here in 1978. The church is now on the far west side on Adler Road at South Lincoln Avenue.
People still pray at Third-and-Chestnut, in a building where the Hansen Funeral Home was once located on the southwest corner. Redeemer Christian Church has spent most of the current decade at its present location after moving from a leased downtown facility on Central Avenue. According to its website, a “very generous local business family” donated the church’s present home. Hansen’s is now the Hansen-Schilling Funeral Home & Cremation Center with locations on Veterans Parkway at Palmetto Avenue, and in Spencer.
To the southeast was the education center. The Marshfield School District’s former Purdy Junior High was built in 1920, and was Midstate Technical Institute in 1978. My wife Jean was trained in that building for at 39-year career at Marshfield Clinic as a medical transcriptionist. The tech school later became Midstate Technical College, and it’s now on West Fifth Street, just west of UW-Stevens Point’s Marshfield campus. And what longtime residents still call the Purdy Building is now where senior citizens enjoy their golden years at the Aster Retirement Community.
Finally, the northeast corner is where the News-Herald used to be headquartered. It’s now the south portion of Wenzel Family Plaza, which opened in 2018. I worked at the paper from mid-1999 through almost the end of 2001. The desks where I wrote news, editorials, and a rare sports column are now covered by concrete off-street parking for the plaza. Meanwhile, most of the News-Herald’s other functions – including advertising sales, and circulation – now have the plaza’s Everett & Dolores Roehl Stage and/or grassy areas to its north and east sides. A concrete walkway is where the paper’s parking lot used to be.
The News-Herald was an afternoon paper at the time and was printed on its own press where the Wenzel plaza now sits. It used to be a favorite field trip for school students; but when I left WDLB Radio for the newspaper in 1999, it was printed at the Wausau Daily Herald along with dailies from Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids. Gannett Co. Inc., the now-morning paper’s current owner, later moved operations to a smaller site at Founders Square at Central-and-Depot. Now, many of the News-Herald’s customer functions are online and it no longer has an office in Marshfield.