Architecture

Historic Buildings of La Crosse

Welcome to my new site!

It celebrates the first volume on La Crosse architecture, Places and Spaces and will be the location for information on subsequent volumes.  My hope is to continue  documenting the city with three volumes on houses and one on the commercial architecture in the future.

La Crosse has a wonderful variety of both commercial and residential buildings that span a century and a half of time.  If you know where to look, there are buildings all around us that date from before the Civil War.

I hope this site will also become a place for people to comment and share information on historic preservation and building restoration in the community.  I will also be posting upcoming talks, tours and presentations on La Crosse buildings.

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Architecture

Buildings Through Time Meeting 2

June 24, 2014 Meeting 2 Revival Styles: Greek, Gothic, Italianate 1850-1880

10 views from high school smaller

Anita shared this view of the Tuteur house taken about 1881 from the old school that was west of the first Christ Episcopal Church.

 

 

King 821 Theodore Edwards 1858 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edwards-Bentley house 821 King, 1858
The narrow end of the gable roof is turned toward the street to create a pediment like the classical temples of Greece. In a fancier version of this house the gable end would be supported on grand, two story columns, but this was early La Crosse and flat pilasters are used on the corners of the house to simulate columns.

The original one story porch wraps around two sides of the house, unusual in the Greek Revival, but helpful to block the sun, as this house faces south. The porch has square columns, another indicator of a less expensive design, but they are properly proportioned to fit the house.
The one story section at the rear is probably the kitchen.

The typical Greek Revival house had a central hall plan, with one or two rooms on each side of the hall. Edwards uses the side hall plan that we will see more often in the new Italianate style. If you used a different porch, added eave brackets and different window heads this house would be discussed later in the chapter in the Italianate section. Basic forms could be used in different styles.

 

Cass 714  Cyphus Martindale 1859 p1977 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

Cyphus Martindale house, 714 Cass 1859
This is the best surviving example of the Cottage Gothic Revival style. These one story, or story-and-a-half houses, were built with simple materials and in basic shapes but often have elaborate decorations. The three gable design allowed a wrap-around porch and gave better ventilation than did a rectangular or square design. The wall of the center gable uses board and batten construction where wide boards are nailed vertically on the house and smaller boards called battens are nailed over the vertical seam to create a vertical emphasis. This system of wall construction is seldom seen except in Gothic Revival cottages.

Wooden decorations on the gable eaves, above the porch entablature and the branch like forms on the square porch column are the product of a new type of saw that could cut complex shapes in flat boards. This band saw decoration was produced in both Gothic and Italianate designs.

Originally, the house would never have been painted white. Gothic cottages were often left to weather naturally or painted in dark grays and greens.

 

 

10th S 237 Laverty-Martindale (2)

 

 

 

 

 

Laverty-Martindale house, 237 S 10th 1865
The house we see today at 237 S. 10th is like many early houses in that it has grown in size and has been altered over the years. Few houses from the 1850’s or 1860’s remain in their original form. If nothing else, these early houses often were altered with new porches or exterior decorations to make them more ‘modern’ or stylish.

The front unit, with the elaborate porch, was built in 1865, the original house from about 1859 sits behind it ,with two smaller windows on this side and the rear porch with sleeping porch above, which were added in 1910. On the north side of the house is a section that was added in 1883 with long windows to match the earlier windows on the front and a delightful balcony on the second level. The sleeping porch at the rear of the house was added in 1910 over an existing porch.

The long rectangular windows of the ground floor, the window heads, the plain boards of the siding all show the simplicity of the buildings in early La Crosse. The owners desired a functional house and if it could be beautiful also, then that was good. Decoration has been concentrated in the most important areas of the building, and the decoration is consistent to the style. The brackets with their scroll-like shapes break up the long horizontal line of the eaves while creating a sense of space by their repetition. Doorways and windows have flat tops supported by slightly curving scroll forms. The two story pilasters at the front corners of the building are neoclassical in origin but have become commonplace in Italianate houses. They support the cornice and contribute to the tension of vertical and horizontal lines.

Only in the porch columns and the cupola on the roof do we find the use of rounded forms. These two parts of the building are visually related and their functions are related as well. The porch colonnettes (little columns) are rather thin and delicate for the load they carry. They taper from narrow necks with a well defined capital to larger bases resting on a rectangular podium. The thinness of the columns makes the porch appear light in weight and airy in form even though it is rather deep and long. The colonnettes correspond in position to the brackets under the porch eaves and the two forms create incomplete vertical lines around the two sides of the house.

The cupola is the rectangular structure on the roof. Once, these air circulation devices were on many houses in the area, but few remain. Often called Captain’s Walks, Widow’s Walks, or Lookout Towers, these structures usually have very little interior spaces and were never intended to be used as rooms. During the winter they supplied sunlight into the center of the house. During the summer evening the warm air of the day exited through the open windows of the cupola, drawing in cooler outside air. The cupola on the Martindale house is a late example, as they had begun to fade in popularity.

Looking at the house from a distance, one sees it in three levels, or tiers,—the porch, the roof and the cupola. Each level diminishes in size, just as did the decks of a steamboat. This arrangement of roof lines and cut out decoration first came about in the 1850’s and 60’s and is sometimes referred to as “Steamboat Gothic”. In fact most of these houses are not Gothic revival at all but use decoration from the Italianate style, but somehow I don’t think we will ever hear the term revised to “Steamboat Italianate”.

 

11th S 237 p2012 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCullough-McCord-van Steenwyck house, 237 S. 11th 1876
The house shape is a long rectangle crossed by a shallow section in the center, a simplified cruciform design. It has the three bay front, like many other Italianate designs in the city, but is much larger in size and more elaborate in decoration.

The decoration is excellent The window frames are probably the most elaborate examples in the city. The north side of the house shows the variety of window types used in large houses of the time. Different window shapes give you different ways of seeing.

The original front porch was replaced by a colonial revival porch about 1910 and when restoring the house the present owners wisely used simple square posts that suggest what would have been there.

 

 

 

70 9th S 205 G W Peck p2012

The G. W. Peck house at 205 S 9th was built in 1871 and was a lovely middle class Italianate house with a two story bay and offset wing with a front entry porch and a family entrance at the side.

 

 

78 9th S 207-09 .

 

 

The Mariner house at 207 S. 9th was built twenty years after the Peck house and uses the large gables,angled bay windows and fancy porch in the Queen Anne style.

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Architecture

LPL Buildings Through Time Meeting 2

June 24, 2014 Meeting 2 Revival Styles: Greek, Gothic, Italianate 1850-1880

10 views from high school smaller

Anita shared this view of the Tuteur house taken about 1881 from the old school that was west of the first Christ Episcopal Church.

 

 

King 821 Theodore Edwards 1858 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edwards-Bentley house 821 King, 1858
The narrow end of the gable roof is turned toward the street to create a pediment like the classical temples of Greece. In a fancier version of this house the gable end would be supported on grand, two story columns, but this was early La Crosse and flat pilasters are used on the corners of the house to simulate columns.

The original one story porch wraps around two sides of the house, unusual in the Greek Revival, but helpful to block the sun, as this house faces south. The porch has square columns, another indicator of a less expensive design, but they are properly proportioned to fit the house.
The one story section at the rear is probably the kitchen.

The typical Greek Revival house had a central hall plan, with one or two rooms on each side of the hall. Edwards uses the side hall plan that we will see more often in the new Italianate style. If you used a different porch, added eave brackets and different window heads this house would be discussed later in the chapter in the Italianate section. Basic forms could be used in different styles.

 

Cass 714  Cyphus Martindale 1859 p1977 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

Cyphus Martindale house, 714 Cass 1859
This is the best surviving example of the Cottage Gothic Revival style. These one story, or story-and-a-half houses, were built with simple materials and in basic shapes but often have elaborate decorations. The three gable design allowed a wrap-around porch and gave better ventilation than did a rectangular or square design. The wall of the center gable uses board and batten construction where wide boards are nailed vertically on the house and smaller boards called battens are nailed over the vertical seam to create a vertical emphasis. This system of wall construction is seldom seen except in Gothic Revival cottages.

Wooden decorations on the gable eaves, above the porch entablature and the branch like forms on the square porch column are the product of a new type of saw that could cut complex shapes in flat boards. This band saw decoration was produced in both Gothic and Italianate designs.

Originally, the house would never have been painted white. Gothic cottages were often left to weather naturally or painted in dark grays and greens.

 

 

10th S 237 Laverty-Martindale (2)

 

 

 

 

 

Laverty-Martindale house, 237 S 10th 1865
The house we see today at 237 S. 10th is like many early houses in that it has grown in size and has been altered over the years. Few houses from the 1850’s or 1860’s remain in their original form. If nothing else, these early houses often were altered with new porches or exterior decorations to make them more ‘modern’ or stylish.

The front unit, with the elaborate porch, was built in 1865, the original house from about 1859 sits behind it ,with two smaller windows on this side and the rear porch with sleeping porch above, which were added in 1910. On the north side of the house is a section that was added in 1883 with long windows to match the earlier windows on the front and a delightful balcony on the second level. The sleeping porch at the rear of the house was added in 1910 over an existing porch.

The long rectangular windows of the ground floor, the window heads, the plain boards of the siding all show the simplicity of the buildings in early La Crosse. The owners desired a functional house and if it could be beautiful also, then that was good. Decoration has been concentrated in the most important areas of the building, and the decoration is consistent to the style. The brackets with their scroll-like shapes break up the long horizontal line of the eaves while creating a sense of space by their repetition. Doorways and windows have flat tops supported by slightly curving scroll forms. The two story pilasters at the front corners of the building are neoclassical in origin but have become commonplace in Italianate houses. They support the cornice and contribute to the tension of vertical and horizontal lines.

Only in the porch columns and the cupola on the roof do we find the use of rounded forms. These two parts of the building are visually related and their functions are related as well. The porch colonnettes (little columns) are rather thin and delicate for the load they carry. They taper from narrow necks with a well defined capital to larger bases resting on a rectangular podium. The thinness of the columns makes the porch appear light in weight and airy in form even though it is rather deep and long. The colonnettes correspond in position to the brackets under the porch eaves and the two forms create incomplete vertical lines around the two sides of the house.

The cupola is the rectangular structure on the roof. Once, these air circulation devices were on many houses in the area, but few remain. Often called Captain’s Walks, Widow’s Walks, or Lookout Towers, these structures usually have very little interior spaces and were never intended to be used as rooms. During the winter they supplied sunlight into the center of the house. During the summer evening the warm air of the day exited through the open windows of the cupola, drawing in cooler outside air. The cupola on the Martindale house is a late example, as they had begun to fade in popularity.

Looking at the house from a distance, one sees it in three levels, or tiers,—the porch, the roof and the cupola. Each level diminishes in size, just as did the decks of a steamboat. This arrangement of roof lines and cut out decoration first came about in the 1850’s and 60’s and is sometimes referred to as “Steamboat Gothic”. In fact most of these houses are not Gothic revival at all but use decoration from the Italianate style, but somehow I don’t think we will ever hear the term revised to “Steamboat Italianate”.

 

11th S 237 p2012 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCullough-McCord-van Steenwyck house, 237 S. 11th 1876
The house shape is a long rectangle crossed by a shallow section in the center, a simplified cruciform design. It has the three bay front, like many other Italianate designs in the city, but is much larger in size and more elaborate in decoration.

The decoration is excellent The window frames are probably the most elaborate examples in the city. The north side of the house shows the variety of window types used in large houses of the time. Different window shapes give you different ways of seeing.

The original front porch was replaced by a colonial revival porch about 1910 and when restoring the house the present owners wisely used simple square posts that suggest what would have been there.

 

 

 

70 9th S 205 G W Peck p2012

The G. W. Peck house at 205 S 9th was built in 1871 and was a lovely middle class Italianate house with a two story bay and offset wing with a front entry porch and a family entrance at the side.

 

 

78 9th S 207-09 .

 

 

The Mariner house at 207 S. 9th was built twenty years after the Peck house and uses the large gables,angled bay windows and fancy porch in the Queen Anne style.

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Architecture

La Crosse Public Library — Buildings Through Time— Meeting 1

La Crosse Public Library: Buildings Through Time

June 17 Meeting 1: Looking at Buildings and the earliest houses
Four Elements on website

This series of images shows the limited range of domestic forms in the very early years of La Crosse.

 

Fontish house 1212 S. 5th 1879

5th S 1212 p2010

 

Ignore the enclosed front porch and the rear addition. Although not from the 1850′s this two or three room house was typical of many early houses that have now disappeared. What seems to us a tiny playhouse was a home for a family of five. A kitchen and eating area on one side and a small living room and small bedroom on the other. Children slept in the attic.
The cook stove would have heated the house, summer and winter.   It may only be a working man’s little house but formality is clearly established with a center entrance flanked by windows and an entrance porch. The front porch has very simple columns, with half-columns attached to the house. They are nothing more than an eight foot long 4 x 4 with the top and bottom left square and the center four feet turned on a semi-automatic lathe. These columns are the only decoration on the house. There often was a more functional porch across the entire width of the rear side in these small houses.

 

Randall-Shorna house 225 Avon 1856

Avon 225   orig 321 N 6 Randal-Shorna 1856 p2011 (2)

 

The three bay front is typical for early Italianate houses in La Crosse, although this house is more narrow than the brick versions that dominate in the 1870’s and 1880’s. The simple window heads and entrance hood are also typical of the time. More elaborate brackets, window and door trim became common after the Civil War. If original, but I don’t think it is, the three sided bay window is one of the earliest that we have a record of in the city.

An older section of the house is at the rear, offset from the newer, taller, section in front, a physical reminder of how families increased their living space as they became more prosperous.
The top light over the front door is used in the 1850’s and 1860’s but disappears in the 1870’s

Often these simple houses turned the gable toward the street and treated the corner boards as pilasters and is a holdover from the classical revival styles.

 

Renwick Howard house, 318 S 8th c1855
George Howard house, 320 S 8th c1855

8th S 320-318 p2012 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

This pair of of houses were built for brothers and are two of the oldest existing houses in La Crosse that I know of. Hiding in plain sight on south 8th, these two houses are disguised as four-square houses from the early 1900’s. Originally, these houses were on the east side of 3rd, near Jay.
What we consider the “down town” part of La Crosse was a mix of commercial and residential building into the 1900′s. Old wooden houses, often with a new front sat side by side with new brick commercial buildings. Gradually the old houses were torn down or moved to new locations.  These two houses were moved about 1913, the first year that 318 and 320 S 8th appear in any city directory.
Both houses are three bays wide and two stories high, simple rectangles that were easy and quick to build. The enclosed front porches and the dormer window in the attic are later additions, probably from about 1913, when they were moved. The rear addition on 318 probably dates from after it was moved. Look at the mass of the houses, ignore the porches and roof dormer, you should be able to see the original rectangle. The siding has been changed and there are new windows but the size of the windows has not changed much so the organization of the parts is unchanged.

 

Greek Revival House, 422 N. 8th c1858

8th N 422 p2010
With a rectangular house you have two options, turn the wide side toward the main street or turn the narrow end to the street. The narrow end with it’s gable to the street is excellent for the classical revival styles. Put an entablature between the outer ends of the gable and you make a pediment. Pilasters, flat columns, can be applied at the corners to create a simple temple front. Or you can use free standing columns and create a porch in front of the building.

Although it’s a simple rectangular box, the classical world still touched this building. The cornice on the side wraps around the front for a short distance, a cornice return. This decorative device was not used by the Greeks or Romans but was invented by the Renaissance architects of Italy, in what we could call the ‘First Classical Revival” On the corners of the house are vertical boards that can be seen as pilasters.

 

Tuteur house 101 S. 9th at Main 1856

 

9th S 101 p1948 ARC
This house was one of the most grand in the city before the Civil War. Originally I think it was a standard central hall plan with two rooms on each side of the hall. The five bay front and centered entrance is a very old, formal design without the irregularity of the Italianate plan. The tall narrow windows, paired eave brackets, decorative window heads and the cupola, now removed, put the house in the Italianate style even if the central hall ground plan is a much older form. A traditional plan with “modern” elements.

There is at least one other house in La Crosse with two rows of four lights used in the windows, the Martindale house at 10th and Cass. This design, and that of the window frames, came from a book that also showed examples of a cupola.
Design books were often used by builders at this time to give them new ideas for houses.

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Architecture

Zombie Buildings: The Living Dead

ZombieBldgs

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Monday October 26 at 9:30 am  and Tuesday at 6:00 pm at the La Crosse Public Library I’ll talk about Zombie Buildings.   These houses and commercial buildings could be brought back to life with a little restoration.   Alterations and additions have removed the details, decorations and porches that once  made them distinctive and enjoyable to look at.

After a few comparisons of buildings as they once looked with their present condition you’ll be able to  see old buildings as the once were.

 

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Architecture

We’ve Hung the Lantern

UW-La Crosse
News Release
UW-La Crosse News and Marketing • 1725 State St. La Crosse WI 54601

608.785.8572 • bquarberg@uwlax.edu • www.uwlax.edu

Sept. 10, 2013 Media contacts: Jane Spencer, Alumni Association, jspencer@uwlax.edu

James Longhurst, History, jlonghurst@uwlax.edu

 

 

New history book of UW-La Crosse to be unveiled
‘We’ve Hung the Lantern’ will cover from 1909-1964

La Crosse, Wis. – A new book will cover the visual history of the first 55 years of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“We’ve Hung the Lantern” will review more than just the first half century of the institution that opened its doors in 1909. The nearly 200-page book will include the periods of 1909-26 when the institution was known as the La Crosse Normal School; 1927-1950, when it was La Crosse State Teacher’s College; and 1951-1964, when it was Wisconsin State College. The visual history of the campus, students and faculty — along with three educational formats and 18 buildings — will be detailed in 224 historic images.

Professor Emeritus Leslie Crocker will unveil his book during a presentation at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, in the UW-L Cleary Alumni & Friends Center. Crocker will answer questions from those attending and sign books. This will be the first time the book will be offered for sale. Eventually, it can be purchased at Pearl Street Books and at lacrossebuildings.com. The program is free and is sponsored by the UW-L History Department and the department’s honorary organization Phi Alpha Theta, the Area Research Center, the Art Department and the Alumni Association.

While Crocker calls the book a “visual history,” he says it’s much more than a picture book. Because of his interest in architecture, the book began as a history of campus buildings. “However, the buildings are only a small part of the history,” explains Crocker. “What happened within those buildings is the real core of the story. Over 260 images show how students lived, while the text connects the separate images and provides context for the story.”

Crocker expects people to view the book in different ways, depending on their connection to the institution.

“Alumni will see the volume in a framework of memories. Even though they weren’t here in 1909, they can relate their own memories and experiences to the memories they see in the book,” he says. “Faculty and administration will see a comparison of how things were ‘back then,’ while dorm residents can find out who ‘Hutch’ was and how Reuter brought additional strength to the physical education department.”

Crocker says few consider how a university develops. For most people, UW-L is here, it’s always been here, and will always be here, he explains. But, the historian looks into the past and sees that the university did not always exist.

“It came about because of a need in society, because some politicians thought it would get them votes, because some businessmen thought it would bring more money to the town, and for a variety of other reasons,” notes Crocker. “I think it is important to understand why something as important as UW-L came into being. It’s important to see how the school changed over time. It’s important to understand that the school could cease to exist if the needs of society change.”

Crocker says the past predicts the future. “We don’t know what lies ahead, but we can look back and see what worked, or didn’t work, in the past,” he says. “The past provides comparisons and contrasts with what exists now, and helps us separate the nonsense from the sense.”

The book is one of two planned by Crocker on the history of the campus. A second volume, expected to be called “The Lamps are Lit,” will cover the campus from 1965 to the present. The provisional title is based on four-armed lampposts outside Graff Main Hall, two on the south side, two on the west and one on the east. They are the “riverside” model, produced by the George Cutter Co. of South Bend, Ind. Other than the building’s exterior, the lampposts are the oldest structures on campus. The second book will continue the theme from the first volume, describing the symbolism of lantern as light and knowledge in the university’s history.

This isn’t the first book about UW-La Crosse. History Professor George Gilkey authored “The First Seventy Years: A History of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse 1909-1979” in 1981 shortly before the university’s 75th celebration.

Associate Professor of History James Longhurst expects the new book to be well received by alumni, students and others. “The university has more than a century of history to tell now, and this book is the first of what I hope will be several different inquiries into that past,” he says.

—UWL—
If you go—

What: Presentation and book signing on “We’ve Hung the Lantern,” a visual history book about UW-La Crosse from 1909-1964

Who: Professor Emeritus Leslie Crocker

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1

Where: UW-L Cleary Alumni & Friends Center

Admission: Free.

[Cheer 1949 homecoming.jpg] – This image of UW-La Crosse cheerleaders from 1949 is one of more than 220 that will appear in a new history book about UW-La Crosse.

About the author: Leslie F. Crocker, a native of Memphis, Tenn., earned a bachelor’s in English literature with minors in history and anthropology at Memphis State University in 1964. He earned a master’s in art history in 1966 at the University of Missouri-Columbia with a thesis on Holly Springs, Miss. He earned a doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1970 with a major concentration in European and American Art 1750 to 1850, and a minor concentration in Renaissance Italian Art.

His dissertation, Historic Architecture of the Middle South, 1750-1900, defined the cultural and stylistic interrelationships of the domestic architecture of Tennessee, northern Mississippi and northern Alabama.

Crocker taught at UW-L from 1969 until retiring as professor emeritus of art history in 2001. Along with serving as Art Department chair, he taught at the University of Wisconsin Copenhagen, Denmark, campus and at Viterbo University. He served as president of the La Crosse County Historical Society and was a founder of the La Crosse Area Society for Historic Preservation, now the Preservation Alliance League. He served as local host for a statewide convention of preservationists sponsored by the Wisconsin State Preservation Office.

Crocker has written various articles, reports and surveys of La Crosse architecture and given many talks on the subject to community groups, as well as advising several city council committees. Find his work at http://www.uwlax.edu/murphylibrary/authors/2013/Crocker_authors_places.html and http://lacrosse-buildings.com/

As part of the Speakers Bureau of the Wisconsin Humanities Council for nine years, Crocker has presented discussions and walking tours on Wisconsin architecture statewide.

He and his wife live in an 1877 farmhouse near Houston, Minn.


Brad Quarberg

University Communications | UW-La Crosse
1725 State St.
La Crosse WI 54601
Office: 608.785.8572
Cell: 608.769.0917
Fax: 608.785.8492

bquarberg@uwlax.edu

www.uwlax.edu

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