Buildings Through Time Meeting 6 The Downtown, Railroad buildings and the Riverfront.r

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.



10 Main 127-31 Mons Anderson Bldg

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.





12b Main 515 p1977 (3)


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.




14a Main 218-22 Pfiffner Block  p1977 (2)

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.




16 Main 294  100 S 3rd p1977



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.


20b Main 301 (2)



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.



30d 3rd S 127-29

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.



33 3rd S 118 Gantert



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.


35a Main 311 State Bank Bldg 1886 p1977c






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.



36a Main 313 p1977






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.





40c Main 319 1888 p1977c (2)


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.




41a Main 401 p1977 (2)




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.




42a Main 409 O J Oyen Bldg p1976

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.






43 Main 402-08 Doerflinger Department Store  1904 p1977c

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.





50a 5th S 123 Hollywood Theater (2)





Hollywood Theater,   123 S 5th 1936
The original sign has been changed but the rectangular shapes clearly show the Art Deco influence.





51 5th S 201 Exchange Bldg j Mandor Matson






Exchange Building,   201 S 5th 1940
Curving forms, bands of windows alternating with concrete. No historical decoration.





53 Mississippi 905c p2010




Building,  905 Mississippi

One of the last unchanged neighborhood stores with apartments above.





55a Pearl 207 (3)

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.



56 Pearl 213-15

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.



62 4th S 116 Leitholds p2010




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.



63 2nd S 113 Pamperin p2013 (5)


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.




65 4th S 137-





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.


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  • Joseph Tillman
    February 21, 2014 - 2:36 pm | Permalink

    You omtted the “Bodega”. Probably not a very historical building, but the name “Bodega”
    is an important part of La Crosse history. I enjoyed your presentation. My distant
    relatives started Tillman Bros. in 1859. My father, Frank Tillman, came into the business in 1945. I finished out my last two years of high school at La Crosse Central high school. My father terminated Tillman Bros. in 1961 and that’s when Leithold went into the building. I’m 84 now and in pretty good health. My wife and two kids live in the Atlanta, Georgia area. We have been back a few times for high school reunions. We love La Crosse.

    • lacr3454
      February 23, 2014 - 11:27 am | Permalink

      The Bodega does have historical importance, as a business more than for it’s architecture, since there are a number of similar buildings in town that haven’t been changed as much. It is at least three separate buildings that have been combined.
      I’m organizing my downtown research material now, in hopes of getting a book put together. As you know, the Tillman Furniture block was the tallest commercial structure in La Crosse for many years and is the only historic building with a two story cast-iron front. It is an important structure to the community.

      Ms. Anita Doering, director of the archives of the Public Library would be very interested in any old records of the company that you might have and any photos of the city. She can copy them and return the originals or provide you with new copies in exchange for your old ones.

      I could not do this history if people didn’t donate the material that I use. Please consider placing any historical material that you might have in the library archives. Anita can be reached at

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