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Guide to the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Public Baths, Resolutions and Reports Relating to Public Baths, 1903-1932 La Crosse Series 028

Guide to the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Public Baths, Resolutions and Reports Relating to Public Baths, 1903-1932

La Crosse Series 028

Summary Information

Resolutions and reports from the Committee on Public Baths to the Common Council, 1903-1932. The materials are arranged in chronological order. The Committee on Public Baths was responsible for the completion of both Pettibone Park beach bath houses in 1904 and 1926, and the North Side beach, located at the end of Logan Street, also called the Black River beach. Resolutions contain construction estimates and architectural invoices for the Pettibone Bath House, and petitions for a North Side beach from citizen groups.
Collection Title
La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Public Baths, Resolutions and Reports Relating to Public Baths
Date of Materials
La Crosse (Wis.). Committee on Public Baths.
Call Number
La Crosse Series 028
0.4 cubic feet
Physical Description
1 archives box
Language of Materials
La Crosse Public Library Archives

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Public Baths, Resolutions and Reports Relating to Public Baths, La Crosse Series 028, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI

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Historical Note

Despite pleas from citizens for a number of years for a North Side bathing beach along the east side of the Black River, the concept did not become reality until 1947 when dredging was completed. Eventually, a brick bath house was constructed on the beach. A community effort, led by the Jaycees in 1977, led to donated labor and materials from area contractors and union workers to landscape the bath house and North Side beach.

A South Side bath house was first constructed in 1904 at Pettibone Park beach along the Mississippi River, just south of the Wagon Bridge, thanks to the leadership of Council member Gus A. Keller. Although the committee first looked at the North Side beach location, the site was plagued by unsanitary conditions, as house boats moored near the site and sewage from Onalaska and other runoff flowed in the Black River at this site. Water testing proved that the Pettibone Beach site was more desirable. The committee also looked at a proposal to put the bath house at the Pettibone Lagoon location rather than the river, but water testing found that the lagoon was fed from cold springs and it was felt that the water was too cold to enjoy swimming.

The original framed Pettibone bath house was dedicated July 4, 1904, and the construction cost was not to exceed $1200. It was designed and constructed by the Board of Public Works and stood until February 1926 when it was razed to make way for the present bath house structure.(1)

In 1925 work began on the present bath house building designed by architect Otto Merman. The La Crosse Elks sponsored the bath house at a cost of $28,545.(2) Spanish style architecture was used in the design of the bath house, “the walls of hollow tile being covered with white Spanish stucco. A red Spanish tile roof and copings covers the center portion of the building and enclosure walls. Floor are of cement and toilet room partitions in Carthage marble.” As early as 1936, the beach house sat idle because of flooding which changed the contour of the beach and high pollution in the Mississippi River. Lodge #300 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks raised funds to help build the structure, and the City Council paid the difference.

The bath house is located just north of the Mississippi bridge (“Cass Street Bridge”). However, the completion in 1937 of a sewage disposal plant resulted in lower river pollution and the bath house was reopened in 1939.(3)

In 1977, the bath house was partially repaired by apprentice masons of Local 257 of Cement Masons and Plasters.(4) In 1982 another group of students in a nationwide project known as Channel One, renovated the Pettibone Beach bath house. The youths received as grant from the National Drug Abuse Institute for $8,500 worth of repairs and construction for the bath house. The volunteers sanded floors, painted walls and gates, built a concession stand, built picnic tables, landscaped the grounds, and refurbished the bathrooms.(5) The high school students used thousands of bricks from old city streets in the former locker rooms.(6) Shortly afterward, in 1984, the Preservation Alliance of La Crosse awarded the city a citation for restoration and historic preservation,(7) and it became a City Historic Site in 1995. In 1997, the bath house was listed as a property on the Preservation Watch List issued by the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation.(8)


(1) “Location of Bath House Selected As Ideal Spot,” La Crosse Tribune 31 July 1932. (2) “Pettibone Park Site for Pool Cheaper, Belief,” La Crosse Tribune 15 March 1936. (3) Doug Connell, “It’s been 60 years of change for the Pettibone Bathhouse,” La Crosse Tribune 31 August 1986:29. (4) “Apprentice masons give bathhouse a cement bath,” La Crosse Tribune 28 May 1977:2. (5) “Youths complete beach house renovation,” La Crosse Tribune 23 Sept. 1982:11. (6) Connell. (7) “5 historic structures cited for restoration,” La Crosse Tribune 4 March 1984:21. (8) Pat Moore, “ 3 Coulee Region properties make state endangered list,” La Crosse Tribune 39 March 1997: C-6.

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Scope and Contents

Common Council resolutions and reports began to be organized by a numbering system in Dec. 1932. Before that time the resolutions were kept folded up in chronological order, roughly by subject or Council committee (such as Parks, Judiciary, Fire, Police, etc.).

This set of pre-1932 resolutions represents those labeled as Public Baths, and date from 1903-1932. The original order of these reports was maintained.

The resolutions deal with Public Baths or beaches on both the North and South sides of La Crosse. Highlights include are construction estimates and architectural invoices for the Pettibone Bath House, and petitions for a North Side beach from citizen groups.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

La Crosse Public Library Archives 1998 October

800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
(608) 789-7136

Access to Materials

Materials in this collection are available for patron use.

Acquisitions Information

(Accession no. 1996.004) Resolutions were located in the City Clerk’s basement area of City Hall; came to the Archives as part of the Mayor’s Special Committee on Historic Records, Dec. 1996

Processing Information

Processed by Anita Taylor Doering, October 1998

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Related Materials

Related Materials

(La Crosse Series 013)
 La Crosse, Wisconsin, Park and Recreation Department Records
(La Crosse Series 020)
 La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Parks, Resolutions and Reports Relating to Parks

To gain a complete picture of the history of any department, check all of the related Common Council and other city record series that might be applicable (such as Finance for instance).

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • La Crosse (Wis.). Common Council.


  • Bathhouses--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Beaches--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Municipal government--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Public records--Wisconsin--La Crosse

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OCLC Number


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Collection Inventory