La Crosse Tribune Buildings Through the Years
(written by Scott Brouwer, Archives staff)
The La Crosse Tribune has called four downtown buildings home over the course of its 110 years in operation. It began in 1904 on the 100 block of Main Street, a block that no longer exists but has become a lovely walking boulevard from downtown proper to Riverside Park. According to a 1948 La Crosse Tribune retrospective article, the first three years of the daily newspaper were printed on the presses of the neighboring German newspaper, Nordstern, at what was called “a charitable rate.” The Nordstern was published in La Crosse from 1856-1921.
(1887 - Main St. looking W from 3rd St., Tribune building in deep distance on right)
(1970 - 111 Main St. building that housed Tribune, middle storefront, later razed)
According to the same 1948 article, the infant newspaper floundered for three years and then was given a new lease on life when it was purchased by the Lee Syndicate, and Frank H. Burgess came from Davenport, Iowa, to be business manager. In 1907, a 10-year lease was signed for a building on the SE corner of 5th and Jay (201-203 S. 5th Ave.), the present site of the Exchange Building. Prior to the Tribune taking over, this building was used by James A. Trane as an early incarnation of what would become The Trane Company. The Tribune was able to stretch out in this building and create a newspaper plant that some said was the “finest in the state of Wisconsin outside of Milwaukee.” The building was purchased in 1915 and in 1924 a major remodel was completed that included new equipment and a wide lobby that was especially needed on election nights in the pre-radio days when the building would be jammed with visitors. The building also featured an outside play-o-graph scoreboard for World Series games; large crowds gathered to watch play-by-play accounts, with Burgess renting chairs in the street at 25 cents a head.
(1910 - 201-203 S. 5th Ave.)
Despite the remodeling, within a few years it became apparent more room was needed. Burgess, and his son William T. Burgess, were instrumental in getting a brand new building built on the NE corner of 4th and Cass (435 S. 4th St.). The building was dedicated on July 21, 1938, and a 120-page special edition of the La Crosse Tribune, printed in six sections, was produced highlighting its history, its staff, its services, its operations, and of course, the sparkling new building.
The Tribune’s circulation expanded greatly during the years this building served as it home. It currently serves as the production plant of Bimbo Bakeries USA.
(434 S 4th St.)
(434 S. 4th St.)
The current Tribune building (401 N. 3rd St.) opened its doors for business on August 27, 1973. According to an ad taken out in the Tribune by Fowler & Hammer, general contractors for the new building, the open concept design eliminated the traditional department isolation pattern used in the old building. The ad also exclaimed, “The attractive outside precast concrete panels give this building a striking appearance which will enhance the downtown skyline for many years to come.” Though it’s not likely many today share the enthusiasm for the architectural style of the building, it does pair up with the City Hall building built just 3 years earlier a block to the east.
(1973 - 401 N 3rd St.)
(Present - 401 N. 3rd St.: Photo Courtesy of La Crosse Tribune)