Ye Olde Courthouse
(written by Megan of the Archives Staff)
In this photo is La Crosse County’s third courthouse, which opened in 1904. It was in the heart of downtown, on a block surrounded by trees, between State and Vine and 3rd and 4th streets.
It dated from an era when public buildings were grand in size and impressive in style and was built in what became the standard 19th century courthouse shape: two stories on a raised basement with a rotunda that was topped by a grand dome. The photo shows the west-facing main entrance with a clock; there were less elaborate entrances on the other three sides.
The inside of the dome, the grand staircase, and the circuit courtroom were decorated with murals that were primarily the work of A. E. Soderberg, the most talented painter employed by the Odin J. Oyen interior design firm of La Crosse.
The 1960s were an era of urban renewal, and this practice also happened in La Crosse, helped along by damage done by the 1965 Mississippi River flood. The 1904 courthouse was torn down in 1965 and replaced with a Montgomery Ward department store. Unfortunately, the store did not last as long as the courthouse and was closed in 1990. The building sat vacant before it was demolished and turned into a parking lot.
For pictures and information about all of La Crosse’s courthouses come down to the La Crosse Public Library Archives.
UPDATE July 2015: Since 2013 when this post was originally published, the downtown block upon which the courthouse sat has undergone major transformation. County Parking Lot C is currently being re-developed by Weber Holdings LLC as a $68 million, 255,000-square-foot complex that will include an 111,500-square-feet office building, 23,000-square-foot retail space, a cafe, an Associate Bank location with a drive-thru, plus 93 market-rate housing units above the retail space.