La Crosse officials highlight importance of historic building preservation

Published: May. 6, 2022 at 5:10 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - City officials in La Crosse are trying to preserve as many of the community’s historic buildings as possible.

Dozens of buildings throughout La Crosse are listed on both the Local and National Register of Historic Places.

Chair of the City’s Heritage Preservation Commission Mackenzie Mindel says maintaining those sites helps keep La Crosse vibrant.

“Historic places and historic buildings add to downtown local economies, community local economies, and they add to tourism,” Mindel listed.

That’s why Mindel believes losing the over 100-year-old Mueller Building to a fire last week was a significant blow to the city.

“That building was still historic even though it wasn’t on our historic register,” Mindel expressed. “Your experience of downtown La Crosse will never be the same.”

The fire is leading preservationists to raise awareness about other historic buildings the city is in danger of losing.

The Heritage Preservation Commission has published its second annual list of the Most Endangered Historic Properties in La Crosse.

“Maybe these buildings are not being used to their highest or best use, they’re vacant, they’ve been neglected,” Planning Administrator Tim Acklin explained. “They may also be part of an area of the city that might be deemed for a larger redevelopment project, and we’re worried about losing them that way.”

Buildings on the 2022 list include the former Casino Bar at 304 Pearl Street, the J.P. Koller Building and John Halverson House on the 600 block of 4th Street South, and Fire Station No. 4 on Gillette Street.

Acklin says safeguarding those sites could benefit La Crosse in a variety of ways.

“Historic preservation can morph over into the neighborhoods element, it can morph to the housing element, it can morph into economic development,” Acklin detailed. “That’s sort of the versatility of historic preservation is it can be applicable to many other elements that a city has.”

Both Acklin and Mindel say the purpose of the endangered properties list is to raise awareness about why those buildings are important to the city.

Acklin hopes City officials will consider keeping those sites intact when planning for La Crosse’s future.

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