Footsteps of La Crosse

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Footsteps of La Crosse
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Downtown La Crosse Tour

Overview of Historic Downtown La Crosse

The roughly five-block La Crosse Commercial Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and contains 110 buildings, of which 96 are considered contributing to the historic architectural character of the district. City officials and downtown business leaders in La Crosse clearly see the connection between a prosperous city center and historic preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded the City of La Crosse a Great American Main Street Award in 2002 for the city’s successful efforts in downtown revitalization through historic preservation. As you walk trough the historic district you will notice the mix of specialty retail, dining and entertainment offerings that are the key to economic vitality of the downtown. Another key element in sustaining the city center is the improvement and adaptive re-use of upper stories for residential use. Although there continue to be economic challenges in the core downtown, La Crosse has a well-deserved reputation in the upper mid-west as a success story of historic preservation and downtown revitalization.

This tour leads you to 30 sites and follows the history of the city from the boomtown riverboat days through the roaring 20’s through the evolution of building styles and details. As you walk the three blocks from Second Street to Fifth Avenue away from the riverfront and Riverside Park, you will see the progression of architectural styles that reflect the historical development of downtown La Crosse. Nearly one hundred years of La Crosse commercial history can be observed in the earliest surviving buildings that date from the 1860s on Second Avenue to the historic styles of the mid-twentieth century seen along Fifth Avenue. Along the way you will be introduced to excellent commercial examples of Italianate, Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne architecture from the 19th century as well as Chicago Commercial, Art Deco and Art Moderne buildings from the early to mid twentieth century.

Enjoy your tour of downtown La Crosse and don’t forget to “look up” to see the architectural character of the historic downtown buildings!

How to Follow the Footsteps

Taking the tour is easy! Use the map to the right to select a point of interest. When you hold your mouse over one of the building icons on the map more information will appear in a bubble. To view the detailed information on that location, just click on the "Details" link. From there you can use the "Next" or "Previous" buttons to visit more locations or you may select a new location from the map. You may also use the button below to start a already selected tour.

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Audio Narrative


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This project was made possible by support from:

Wisconsin Historical Society Logo Wisconsin Public Television

For more information contact the La Crosse Public Library Archives Department at 608-789-7136