A Royal Visit
(written by Bill Petersen, Archives Staff)
Since 1887, La Crosse has hosted visits from eight U.S. presidents while they were in office. On rare occasions, the city has also played host to foreign dignitaries. On May 7, 1939, the city rolled out the red carpet for Crown Price Olav of Norway and his wife, Princess Martha, for a one-day visit.
The royal couple was on a tour of the United States when they stopped in La Crosse for a luncheon at the home of Helga Gundersen, 1509 King Street. When they arrived on the Burlington Zephyr at the 2nd and Pearl street depot, they were greeted by a huge crowd and a downtown area decorated with American and Norwegian flags. Before the prince and princess left, a reception at Riverside Park and a parade was held on their behalf.
There were 32 guests invited to the royal luncheon at Mrs. Gundersen’s home. The accompanying picture, taken from the front porch of the Gundersen home, shows the crowd gathered outside hoping to get a glimpse of the prince and princess.
Helga Gundersen was the wife of Gundersen Clinic founder Adolf Gundersen, who died in 1938. After Mrs. Gundersen died in 1951, the stately home was purchased by the English Lutheran Church and was razed in 1961.
In the collections of the Archives and Local History department, you can find much more information on this royal visit, the Gundersen family, and the Gundersen home.