The river was the key to the early settlement of La Crosse and the downtown grew up along it’s banks. Railroads after 1870 and still later highways changed the city but the river has remained at the heart of La Crosse. Businesses with heavy goods, stoves, hardware, boilers, farm equipment, lumber and similar products clustered near the river for easier transportation. Most of these establishments were south of Pearl and north of State street, leaving State, Main, Jay, King and Pearl as the primary shopping area. This commercial district spread east as the city grew and finally stopped around Fifth Avenue. It remains the core of the La Crosse business district today.
Many of the early stores from the 1860′s and 1870′s remain but most have been altered.
Mons Anderson Building ne corner Main and Front
Begun in 1860 and completed in 1883 this was one of the largest commercial establishments in the community. It was 100 feet wide and 120 in depth with four stories and a basement. Anderson employed about 150 people, mostly women, in his store. It was demolished about 1970.
The Home 515 Main 1886 now The Briar Patch
Typical of many frame buildings of the time in the downtown, this one has survived through many alterations.
Pffiffner Block, 218 Main 1868, 1873, 1875
The western three bays were built in 1868, another four bays were added in 1873 and the eastern four bays were built in 1875. The ground floor of the two earlier units were probably rebuilt in 1875 with cast-iron framing and large display windows. All three parts were stuccoed in 1983.
Rodolf Block, 294 Main 1870, 1878
A 24 X 80 foot three story building was built on the corner and a similar sized addition was made on the west side and a slightly larger unit added further west about 1878. A metal false front was added about 1965, but it was removed around 2010. A victory for preservation, now it needs restoration.
Post Office Block , 301 Main, 1871, 1886, 1981 partly demolished. Charles J Ross
Alex McMillan, William R. Sill and Henry Bliss financed a new office building that also contained the Post Office. The original section was 50 X 80 and cost $25,000. An addition in 1886 doubled the frontage on Main Street. Structural problems caused by a major remodeling resulted in the demolition of the original section in 1981.
Solberg Building, 125 S Third 1870, 1876, 1880
Originally 40 x 80 this building got an addition on the rear and about 1880 the version we see now was finished. Excellent window heads and cornice.
Gantert Building, 118 S 3rd 1874 , 1885
Gantert came to La Crosse from Germany at age 27 in 1861 and made furniture. By the mid 1870′s he was selling factory produced furniture in a new store, the southern four bays of the present building. In 1885 he added two units of three bays each to the north of his original building and changed the ground floor of the original building. Excellent cast-iron front. Interior has thin cast-iron columns supporting unseen steel beams that allow for the open interior. Excellent door hardware remains. The black walnut staircase, supposedly crafted by the German furniture makers Gantert employed, shows the exceptional materials and forms that he used.
State Bank Building, 311 Main 1886
Decorative terra-cotta and bright red brick enliven this building.. The bay window on the facade was removed around 1960 but rebuilt about 2000, an early restoration in the downtown.
Davis-Moen Building, 313 Main
Originally a delightful building, it was covered with a metal false- front in the 1960′s which has since been removed to reveal nothing much. You can’t win them all.
Batavian Bank Building, 319 Main, 1888 S.S. Beaman
The Romanesque Revival style creates a feeling of massiveness and strength that is advantageous to a bank. The Chicago archaitect S. S. Beaman used a Mediterranean style of decoration that is uncommon in the Midwest. About 1960 a metal false front was added, but that was removed around 2005. Unfortunately the brown marble remains.
McMillan Building, 401 Main 1886 Long & Kees of Minneapolis
This five story Romanesque revival office building contained 80 rooms and cost $37,000. The entrance and ground floor were severely altered, probably in the 1960′s.
O.J. Oyen Building, 409 Main 1912 Bentley and Merman
This tall narrow building housed the decorating firm, studio and design areas of the company. It is an unusual design with an open ground floor and smaller windows in the upper stories.
Doerflinger Building, 402 Main 1903 Schick and Roth
Replacing the Park Store which burned in a devastating fire, this was the first of the 20th century commercial structures in the city. It’s simple shapes and recessed wall surfaces are typical of the Chicago style of building.
Hollywood Theater, 123 S 5th 1936
The original sign has been changed but the rectangular shapes clearly show the Art Deco influence.
Exchange Building, 201 S 5th 1940
Curving forms, bands of windows alternating with concrete. No historical decoration.
Building, 905 Mississippi
One of the last unchanged neighborhood stores with apartments above.
George Zeisler Building, 201 Pearl 1886
An exceptional combination of brick, stone, cast-iron and sheet metal. The cornice and iron front remain relatively unchanged.
Schwarz Building-Grand Hotel, 205-207-209 Pearl 1875-1887
Eastern three bays built in 1875. In 1887 western nine bays added and original building got a third floor.
Voegle Block, 211-213-215 Pearl 215 was built in 1866, 213 in 1868 and 211 in 1874
These are some of the oldest commercial buildings in La Crosse. Simple forms and little decoration.
The ground floors of 215 and 213 were probably changed from brick arches to a steel frame about 1874.
Tillman Bros Building, 118 S 4 th 1889 Main Stolze & Schick
This five story building has a cast-iron front on the first and second floor. Front of pressed brick, red sandstone, iron, and plate glass. Large display windows.
Pamperin Building, 115 S 2nd St 1879
A wonderful front, now partly covered by a terrible awning. One of the early buildings to use cast-iron on the front, note the cast-iron half and quarter columns.
Doerre, Leinlokken and Tausche Buildings 100 block S 4th, late 1880′s, early1890′s
The best remaining sheet metal cornices in the city. Excellent buildings defaced by modern fronts.