Brin Building coming down, but its history is saved

MENASHA, Wis. (WBAY) - Demolition of the historic Brin Theater in downtown Menasha is underway after a fire left the building unsalvageable in August.

Kati takes once last look at the burnt down Brin theater before it is taken down

“It’s kind of sad to see this piece of Menasha’s history go away. Unfortunately with the fire, we didn’t really have much of a choice,” said Menasha Mayor Don Merkes.

Officials tell us the fire started in the attic between the second floor ceiling and the roof. The Neenah-Menasha Fire Department determined the fire to be electrical in nature.

Now the city owns the building and is looking at the future of the site.

“About a year ago we had looked at a downtown master vision plan, and the vision for this corner was, the Brin was going to be the anchor of the retail and commercial portion of downtown,” said Mayor Merkes.

He hopes the next developer will work within those guidelines and have the site be the connection between the east and west sides of downtown.

The site is also a designated qualified opportunity zone, which provides tax incentives for investors.

“We think that this has a lot of potential to be used within those tax credits and work with developers,” said the mayor.

Meanwhile, the Menasha Historical Society is working on preserving the history of the Brin.

“There were many Christmas parties here for kids whose parents worked in local mills,” remembers Kathleen Humski, vice president of the historical society.

“There was a huge pile of gifts on the stage, and every one of us got a great big gift, and it was just unbelievable and probably one of the most exciting days of our lives.”

Stories like this are what the historical society hopes to compile into a book about the Brin along with some facts.

“The name Brin comes from Lenard K. Brin who was a theater manager in Milwaukee and come up here and managed the Brin Theater,” said Humski.

It was built in 1928 to the tune of $140,000.

The theater at the time it was built had 932 seats. There was also a 12 lane bowling alley, seven store fronts and apartments on the second floor.

The historical society has on display some artifacts such as bricks, plaster elements from the auditorium, an iron pulley from the stage and several of the terra-cotta roof tiles.

“It's been a jewel in the crown of Menasha's historic buildings, so it's sad to see this happen,” said Humski.

If you have a memory you would like to share about the Brin Theater, the Menasha Historical Society is open on Mondays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

You can also connect with them via the historical society’s Facebook page.

We welcome comments and civil discussions. powered by Disqus