“Went to a temperance drama at Lappin’s Hall.”
Lavinia Goodell, February 10, 1874
Janesville, Wisconsin has a wealth of historical buildings remaining, including some frequented by Lavinia Goodell when she lived in the city in the 1870s. One such building is the Lappin-Hayes Block located at the corner of Main and Milwaukee Streets, in the heart of the city’s downtown.
Janesville is named after Henry James, who built a timber house on the Rock River, on the site of the Lappin-Hayes block, in 1836. Thomas Lappin, an early Janesville merchant, built a two-story store there in 1842. In 1855, Lappin erected a four-story red brick Italianate building on the site. The ground floor housed stores. The second floor had office space leased to attorneys, physicians, and other professionals. John Cassoday, one of Lavinia Goodell’s mentors, who later became Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, had his office in Lappin’s Block. The top floors of the building contained two performance halls, Lappin’s Hall and Apollo Hall. Lappin’s Hall was the larger one. It held hundreds of people and hosted many performances and community events. In her letters and diaries, Lavinia Goodell mentioned attending many functions there.
Lavinia helped organize a Ladies Temperance Union in Janesville in 1873. The LTU regularly held events at Lappin’s Hall. In early 1874, she noted in her diary that she had attended a “temperance drama” there. (The Janesville Gazette reported that the event featured a “first class temperance lecture” and that admission to the event cost ten cents a person.)
A short time later, the LTU held another event at Lappin’s Hall, this one “a little play by the young folks entitled Aunt Dinah’s pledge.” Lavinia reported to her sister that it “passed off very pleasantly and had, I think, a good effect.”
The Congregational church, of which Lavinia was a member, held its children’s Christmas festival at Lappin’s Hall.
In 1899, the building was sold to Dennis and Michael Hayes, Janesville contractors, who added an elevator and made exterior additions, including a Queen Anne style sheet metal cornice and pressed metal rounded bays at the corners. After the renovation, the structure was described as Janesville’s first modern office building. Although Lappin’s Hall is no more, Lavinia Goodell would no doubt still recognize the old building. The Lappin-Hayes Block is on the National Register of Historic Places and stands as both a part of Janesville’s storied past and an active part of its twenty-first century business district.
To learn more about historic buildings of significance to Lavinia Goodell’s life in Janesville, check out our walking tours .
Sources consulted: Lavinia Goodell’s diary (February 20, 1874; December 16, 1877); Lavinia Goodell’s letter to Maria Frost (March 16, 1874); History of Rock County, Wisconsin (Chicago: Western Historical Company 1879); https://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/WI-01-RO11; https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Property/HI87109; Janesville Daily Gazette (February 20, 1874; November 24, 1875; December 26, 1877).